In Focus: Printable Solar Cells


What is it?
Since their inception, conventional solar panels have been costly toproduce. But with the spurt of recent advances made in the field ofsolar technology, researchers have managed to come up with a new type of flexible, large-sheet, reel-to-reel printable plastic solar cells thatcan be mass-produced in a cost effective way. These printable solarcells are created with particles of semi-conducting titanium dioxidethat are coated with dyes that can absorb light. These particles arethen immersed in an electrolyte and this solar cell solution is used asink to imprint thin plastic films. Analogous to the working of anink-jet printer, this polymer printing technology has been in use inover 20 countries.


1. CSIRO Develops Printable Solar Cells:

lg_printable solar cells

Researchers from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) contrived flexible, ultra-thin and light solar cells. These advanced solar cells can be printed out like money at anefficient rate. And also, according to CSIRO, the solar cells can beused on water surface since they can float on water!

2. Cheap, printed solar LEDs to light up off-grid African villages:


Danish researcher Frederik Krebs has conscientiously created an LED lamp that can be conveniently applicable in many fields. Integrated within a lithe, printable solar panel, this lighting fixture could replaceconventional lamps and even kerosene lamps, especially in those placeswhere there are lack of proper electrical infrastructure. Printed out in reams, the dual light/solar panel can be rolled up to mimic a lamp, and has the potential to provide light to around 1.5 billion people aroundthe world, who are currently living without electricity.

3. MIT makes more progress on printable solar cells:


Researchers from Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Research Center have been successful in printing a solar cell on paper by using an organic nanoscale semiconductor material. Utilizing theink-jet printer technology, the researchers have only managed to imbibean efficiency of 1.5 to 2 percent to the solar cells, but the overallefficiency is expected to rise further as the technology improves in the coming years. Moreover, the solar cells have multiple layers, each ofwhich can absorb different wavelengths of incident sunlight. Takingadvantage of their docility these thin-film solar cells can be wrappedaround plastic, paper, or metal to increase their efficiency to 15- 25percent.

4. Inkjet-printable Solar Panels:


Konarka Technologies has conveniently come up with a printable solar panel film that utilizes a common inkjet printing process. Basically in thisadroitly conceived technology, the ink inside the printer is replacedwith the solar cell material and a thin flexible sheet of plastic isused in place of paper. Hence, the manufacturing process becomes muchmore easily achievable.

The Benefits:
Printable solar cells can provide us with a plethora of benefits,especially in comparison to conventional solar panels. First, when itcomes to the cost factor, printable solar panels can unequivocally becheap and mass-produced. Moreover, because of their malleable nature,they can be incorporated on rough and uneven surfaces. Some of them canbe conceived to be thin enough to act as semi-transparent coverings onwindow surfaces. Also, as mentioned earlier, they can be made to floaton water especially as a means of effectual space management (solarfarms on land do tend to take up a lot of space).

The Lowdown:
Probably the major problem that can be associated with printable solarcells is their significantly lower efficiency (the percentage ofelectric power converted from incident light). The conventionalpolycrystalline and mono-crystalline solar panels exhibit an efficiencyof around 19 percent, whereas printable solar cells have an efficiencyof around the mark of less than 4 percent. Furthermore, they can also be easily damaged by intense sunlight, temperature fluctuations, highoxygen content and even windblown debris. But, in the years to come,researchers are looking forth for innovative methods to increase theefficiency to at least 10 percent, and also make the solar cells moreadaptable to adverse conditions.

The Impact:
They can make a huge impact specifically when we judge the technologyfrom the perspective of sustainability. Forgoing the need for all thecomplex paraphernalia of electrical wiring, such clean and ‘green’technology imbibed devices can be used in relation to most surfaces andthat too in a much more cost effective manner. Printable solar cells domake use of advanced nanotechnology in their production. With thedevelopment and effectual usage of nanoparticles, such solar cells canbe made feasible and pliable in comparison to the traditional bulkysolar panels. So, it may be sooner than later that one day we would bewitnessing a worldwide solar power grid – generating a totallysustainable and clean form of power, utilizing printable solar cells.



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