Researchers have just unveiled the latest advancement in solar technology, identifying a new and inexpensive solid-state type of light-sensitive nanoparticle.

This new form of nanoparticle, called colloidal quantum dots, could potentially lead to less expensive and more flexible solar cells, compared to what is currently seen, according to a study recently published in Nature Materials.

According to the study, this is certainly not the first attempt to improve on existing solar cells using light-sensitive nanoparticle dots. However, this technology is dependent on n-type and p-type semiconductors. Past designs proved efficient but could not be brought outdoors. This was because developers quickly discovered that electron-rich n-type materials tended to bind to oxygen, tossing away their electrons in the process and becoming p-types. With a pair of p-type semiconductors, the experimental solar cells would lose their particle dichotomy and thus their ability to function.

However, researchers from the University of Toronto (UT) have developed the colloidal quantum dots with a new n-type particle that doesn't bind to air, maintaining a stable pair of n- and p-type layers that boost light absorption and even offer new potential to advance gas sensors, infrared laser and infrared light diodes, according to a UT release.

Researchers saw panels using new hybrid n- and p-type material prove up to eight percent more efficient at energy conversion compared to the world's leading models of solar cells.

Even more stunning, the quantum dots "could be mixed into inks and painted or printed onto thin, flexible surfaces, such as roofing shingles, dramatically lowering the cost and accessibility of solar power for millions of people" according to the release.

However, study author Ted Sargent warns that it will be a long time coming before this very new technology is perfected for every-day use.

"The field of colloidal quantum dot photovoltaics requires continued improvement in absolute performance, or power conversion efficiency,"Sargent said. "The field has moved fast, and keeps moving fast, but we need to work toward bringing performance to commercially compelling levels."

The study was published in Nature Materials on June 8.