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Resource Fix: Thin materials for solar paint

How do you create extremely thin, flexible, yet strong structures? Scientists have been working for some time on “stacking” layers of 2D materials, or materials that are just one atom thick, to create ultrathin devices.

Now scientists from the University of Manchester have been exploring techniques to stack several layers of materials, including graphene, to create photoactive structures – in other words, extremely thin, efficient solar cells. Their method could be used to create solar coatings or paint for buildings.

Solutions that lead to the development of lighter, thinner technologies have the potential to reduce resource use significantly - just think about the difference in mass between a layer of paint and a typical solar cell. For more developments in graphene research, explore the University of Manchester's research hub.




Resource Fix: Deicing without chemicals

Deicing airplanes currently requires the application of chemicals, in addition to other methods that involve heat. The process is resource-intensive: the planes can idle for lengthy periods while waiting for treatment, the chemicals are applied using a specially equipped truck and contained and collected for recycling, and the whole process needs to be repeated again and again. What if the process could be built into the airplanes themselves?


Saab has applied for a patent to do just that. The company plans to incorporate a layer of lightweight graphene into the surface of airplanes, perhaps using a resin that would conduct a small electrical current to heat areas that need deicing. The solution would preserve aerodynamics and reduce resource use considerably. It’s one of many potential uses of graphene in the aviation industry that could reduce the overall weight of planes.

Materials innovations are making it possible to place more functions right into an existing product, doing away with the need for other products and reducing resource use. What other examples have you seen?