There’s little doubt about the benefits of solar panels in environmental terms, as a way of harnessing the power of the sun – and air compressors could have a key role to play in making it easier, faster and cheaper to build new solar panels in the future.

If you imagine a present-day solar panel, you probably think of a cumbersome, rigid sheet several metres in length, fixed to the roof of a building or to some other surface which receives a good amount of direct sunlight.

Modern methods of making solar panels allow for some variation to this – photovoltaic roof tiles, for instance – but generally until now it has been quite slow and inefficient to produce these.

Now a team at the University of Toronto have devised a way to use colloidal quantum dots – tiny particles of photovoltaic material – in a spray-on solar-generating substance they have named SprayLD.

Ultimately this could see air compressors used to simply spray photovoltaic material on to any existing surface, rather than mounting rigid panels on to it.

Illan Kramer, a post-doctoral fellow at the university, said: “My dream is that one day you’ll have two technicians with Ghostbusters backpacks come to your house and spray your roof.”