The biggest fear is that a new kind of film will turn up in our hands.
A new kind, that is, of metal.
In a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications, scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey, compared the surface conductivity of copper-plated metal films and steel-plating film.
They found that the film’s surface conductance was significantly lower than that of film coated with steel, even though both films are coated with the same kind of plastic.
The film coating was much more effective at shielding the metal from the sun.
“We found that films with higher surface conductances could better shield copper from the ultraviolet radiation, and thus the surface coating of the film was better at protecting the film from the heat,” says study coauthor and UC Berkeley graduate student Michael Fink.
“The film coating may therefore have a potential to provide an additional protection against the ultraviolet-induced skin damage that can occur with copper-coated films.”
The film’s ability to shield the metal’s surface is due to a mechanism known as the plating cycle, which takes place in the metal and converts it into a more stable, conductive metal.
This process, called plating, takes place every 10,000 years or so.
As metal becomes more conductive, its surface becomes coated with a copper oxide layer, which has a lower surface conductive coefficient.
This layer can be a combination of aluminum oxide and nickel oxide, which is what the researchers used to film copper films with film-coating materials.
They say that the higher surface area and more stable conductivity may help the film to be more durable.
“A film coated by a copper plating film has the same surface conductivities as a film coated without the film plating,” says coauthor Alex P. Sibayan, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the UC Berkeley School of Engineering.
“If we apply the same coatings to copper films, then the copper platers can produce the same heat loss as the films without the copper coating.”
But even though the film coating is effective, the researchers warn that it may not be the only option.
“As with all film coatings, the films we have tested do not have the same strength, durability, or water repellency as the steel-coaters,” says Sibayan.
“While we don’t know whether the film can be made stronger or more resistant to heat, we can say that these films are still more suitable for the use in solar cells than copper film coatations.”
In addition, Sibayaan and colleagues point out that copper-based films have a relatively high thermal conductivity.
So if a film is coated with high-conductivity film, it may be better for the film, and that’s what they are testing with.
“There is a lot of research to be done on the properties of films with different plating properties,” says Fink, who is also an assistant research scientist in the Berkeley Lab’s Center for Materials Science.
“But in the meantime, we are excited to see what this new technology will do for solar cells and batteries.””
Ultimately, it will depend on what we can do with this technology,” says Puck, who coauthored the paper with coauthor Jonathan A. Krieg, a UC Berkeley doctoral student.
“But in the meantime, we are excited to see what this new technology will do for solar cells and batteries.”