Australian researchers develop printed solar panels

June 16, 2013 by  

Australian scientists have discovered a way to print solar panels utilising commonplace printing technology.

The extremely thin solar cells printed on flexible plastic are expected to create up to 50 watts of electricity for every square metre of panel. The CSIRO has installed a solar cell printer which can print out panels the size of A3 paper – ten times larger than was previously possible.

The improvements lead to a very real possibility of off-grid power and solar water purification systems, among other adaptations.

Dr Scott Watkins, CSIRO materials scientist, said:

“What we’re developing are some organic semiconductors the chemicals we’re using are very similar to those in nature but they do conduct small amounts of electricity.”

A key consideration is the ability to install the panels in places that would not normally be considered. For example, curtains are usually used to keep sunlight and heat out of a building, but a curtain constructed from flexible solar panels can have the added effect of simultaneously producing power for the building.

The panels are suitable for structures that don’t have a load bearing roof, with great potential for poorer communities around the world. Portable devices such as laptops could be another winner. A solar panel attached to the computer could charge the battery in regions far away from any power socket.

Researchers from the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium are adapting the technology to suit traditional printing services, giving everybody an opportunity to utilise the technology.

Existing print companies and solar panel manufacturers are optimistic that utilisation of established techniques will enable manufacturing of solar panels by small businesses