A group of Australian and Chinese researchers have made a ground-breaking discovery which could revolutionize solar energy.
Max Lu, professor at the University of Queensland (UQ)'s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), said on Thursday they were one step closer to the holy grail of cost-effective solar energy with their discovery.
"We have grown the world's first titanium oxide single crystals with large amounts of reactive surfaces, something that was predicted as almost impossible," Lu told Xinhua.
"Titania nano-crystals are promising materials for cost-effective solar cells, hydrogen production from splitting water, and solar decontamination of pollutants," he said.
He said what his team has done was to make such materials "easy and cheap."
Talking about the application of the highly efficient miniature crystals, Lu said it wasn't just renewable energy where this research could be applied.
"They are also fantastic for purifying air and water," he said, "One could paint these crystals on to a window or a wall to purify the air in a room."
"The potential of applications of this technology in water purification and recycling are huge."
Lu said it would be about five years for the water and air pollution applications to be commercially available, and about five to 10 years for solar energy conversion using such crystals.
Professor Lu also said the work was the result of very fruitful and long-term international collaboration with Professor Huiming Cheng's group from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a world-class institution with which UQ has collaborated many times in productive research.
The research findings were published in the latest edition of scientific journal Nature Thursday.
(Xinhua News Agency May 29, 2008)