Harnessing the power of the sun: TEDxToronto

This week we’re bringing you the top five coolest tech talks from TEDxToronto, an annual showcase of innovative and provoking talks, this year surrounding a theme of ‘redefinition.’ Yesterday we introduced you to Drasko Vucevic, the interactive music composer who mashed social media with music. Today we’re introducing you to Professor Ted Sargent, Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology at the University of Toronto, who is mashing nanotechnology with the sun to revolutionize energy. 

Dr. Sargent is using nanotechnology to create cheap and efficient (and tiny!) solar cells in an effort to take advantage of what he calls our greatest resource – the sun. His lab is creating an ink-like semiconductor comprised of tiny solar cells.  This solar ink can essentially be ‘painted’ onto any surface – from clothing to optical wires.  It has the potential to transform electricity.  Could you imagine a solar powered light bulb? What if the sun powered your iPad?

The cells’ astonishingly quick conversion of currents back to light may revolutionize industries from security to the Internet to medicine. “We can paint these semiconductor particles right onto the chip,” explains Dr. Sargent to the Ontario Innovation Trust, “and then turn the dried paint effectively into a laser.” The Ontario Innovation Trust says these ‘paint-on semiconductors may lead to a hundred-fold reduction in the costs of optical chips for genetic testing, bringing revolutionary diagnostic and treatment-tracking procedures within the reach of local clinics.’ Dr. Sargent’s lab is making huge international impact on the smallest molecular level.

The University of Toronto was the first institution to offer courses in nanotechnology as part of its engineering science program. The science quickly expanded to universities across the world! Thinking about studying nanotechnology in university? Check out the CareerMash profile of the University of Waterloo’s Nanotechnology Engineering program.

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