What is Solar Paint and How Does it Work?

Solar paint, also known as photovoltaic paint, is perhaps one of the most interesting concepts available in the solar power market. However, while it has been shown that solar paint does work as described and it’s been improved by various institutes and universities, it’s not quite a commercial product yet. This will teach you all about solar paint and how it can potentially change the future of home energy.

What is Solar Paint?

Solar paint is like a solar panel in some ways. Both technologies are capable of absorbing sunlight and converting it into usable energy for lights, appliances, and devices. Anything that requires electricity can be powered by this technology.

The major difference between the two is how they are used. A solar panel is typically on the larger side and it is installed on a roof or anywhere else with easy access to sunlight. There have been advances in the field of shrinking solar panels so that they are easier and cheaper to install, and currently, they get as small as shingles.

Solar paint is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a paint that can be applied to any surface regardless of its size, angles or shape. The technology is still in development, but the idea is that this will give you more access to sunlight as you can easily cover a whole wall or something as small as a doghouse.

This easy application makes it simple to turn any surface into a solar battery that can generate and store power.

How Solar Paint Works

There are currently several iterations of photovoltaic paint and each one has shown promise. One of the most popular versions of solar paint was created by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT.)

The researchers at RMIT created a type of paint that combines titanium oxide with synthetic molybdenum sulfide. The former is a common ingredient found in most paints that help it adhere to surfaces. The second ingredient is like a silica gel that is capable of absorbing sunlight and making energy.

According to RMIT, this material is able to take in both solar energy and moisture, which is rich in hydrogen. The hydrogen will be removed from the moisture and then converted into power for fuel cells and similar products.

The University of Toronto made their own variation of solar paint. It seems to be a little more effective in terms of generating power, but it’s not as flexible as conventional paint. They are working on adding colloidal quantum dots to a surface material. This is a common semiconductor used with computer and LEDs, so the technology is definitely effective.

The difference between this product and normal paint is that the surface that is sprayed can be rolled up and installed like wallpaper, but it can’t be rolled on and applied like paint. While there is some limitation in terms of flexibility, this is still much more flexible than standard solar panels.

These are not the only establishments working on this project, but currently, they seem to be the most viable and advanced.

Commercial Viability

As stated above, photovoltaic paint is still more of a concept than a product. This is because the technology isn’t quite commercially viable just yet. Most of the solar paint projects are working and are capable of generating power, but not enough for them to go into full production.

Solar panels are currently the king of solar power. They are able to operate at an average rate of 18 percent efficiency. This means that they are able to convert 18 percent of sunlight into power. That may not sound like a lot, but it translates into more than enough power for a house or business.

Photovoltaic paint, on the other hand, is only able to run at an average efficiency of three to eight percent. This isn’t enough power to justify the cost of producing this product. It can supply weaker batteries and devices with enough power, but few people would invest in it because it’s unable to power homes and larger appliances.

Most experts say that solar paint would need to reach at least 10 percent efficiency before it being considered commercially viable. While it is getting close, it will likely be a few more years before this is sold as a product.

Benefits Over Solar Panels

Photovoltaic paint has more benefits than just being flexible and easy to install. First of all, this paint can be used in any environment. It doesn’t matter if there is little light, lots of moisture or even dry air, this paint has been shown to work in every common environment. This is especially true for the RMIT’s version of photovoltaic paint since it requires less light than a solar panel.

Another benefit is that the paint can be applied to surfaces that aren’t large enough to justify solar panels. Panels typically require a roof or large yard to gather enough power, but what if you have an apartment or small home? This paint can be applied to any surface to immediately generate power.


Solar paint is a futuristic concept that is quickly becoming a commercially viable product. While it will likely be a few more years before it goes into full-scale production, you can expect to see this being used on homes both large and small in the near future. Not only is this paint easier to apply than solar panels, but it can be used in every environment and on any structure.