Printable Solar Panels

The future of power is just a step away.

Australian scientists claim they are extremely close to having printable solar panels available for market.

Scientists from Australia’s national science agency, known as CSIRO, along with two Australian universities, Melbourne and Monash, have been developing the power cells which are printed on plastic as part of the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium since 2007.

The team of 50 researchers consists of chemists, physicists and engineers, who hope to see printed solar panels being used in low-power applications within the next few years.

The innovative technology, which is nearing the commercialisation stage, could power personal devices and change the way electronics are charged, according to Fiona Scholes, a senior research scientist at CSIRO.

“iPad covers, laptop bags, skins of iPhone [will no longer be] just for casing electronics, but to collect some energy as well and power those electronics,” Scholes told ABC News.

“It’s very cheap. The way in which it looks and works is quite different to conventional silicon rooftop solar,” she said. “It can be made to be semitransparent – we can use it for a tinted window scenario.”

The possibilities for the solar panels are endless due to the projected low cost, light weight and flexibility, Scholes told Mashable.

“They could potentially be used in a whole range of applications such as consumer product packaging, windows and window furnishings, temporary structures, remote locations and developing communities,” she said.

Using commercial printers, but with solar ink, the team printed the solar cells much like a plastic bank note would be printed. The printing process has been in development since 2011.

“We print our solar inks in a roll-to-roll process onto plastics like PET. The printing is done in open air, using off-the-shelf printing equipment that we have adapted to use our solar inks,” Scholes told Mashable.

The project’s aim was to develop panels which could vary in colour or appearance, and are lightweight and conformable while delivering a stable voltage under low light or indoors.

According to the solar cell consortium website, the technology “has the potential to dramatically reduce the dependence on more traditional sources of electricity in developed countries such as Australia.”

It could also allow for a cheap and easily deployable energy source for remote regions in developing countries.

“Unlike traditional electricity producing solar panels, organic cells offer the potential to allow printing directly onto materials such as roofing and windows, and therefore open intriguing building integrated design opportunities,” according to the website.

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