A team of physicists, engineers, and chemists from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation a.k.a. CSIRO is nearing its development of printable solar panels for use in low-power applications such as personal devices. The technology could change the process of how electronics could be charged after its deployment, according to senior CSIRO research scientist Fiona Scholes.
The scientists, two from Monash and Melbourne universities, have been conducting research on power cells since 2007. According to Scholes, skins of iPhones, laptop bags, and iPad covers will not just be casings for electronic devices but collectors of substantial amounts of energy that can power the same electronics that they provide protective coverage for. The printable solar panel cells will be “very cheap,” explained Scholes, and can be created to have semi-transparency for a scenario like a tinted window.
Printable Solar Panels Potential for Numerous Applications
Its look and function will also be different from the conventional rooftop solar which made of silicone. The use for this type of solar panel could be endless primarily because of it is lightweight, flexible, and has a projected inexpensive cost.
The printable solar panel has the potential for numerous applications like developing communities, furnishings for windows, packaging of consumer products, windows, remote locations, and temporary structures.
How the Printable Solar Panels are Being Produced
The team, with other scientists from the Monash and Melbourne universities, used commercial printers with solar ink and printed solar cells the way plastic bank notes are printed. In development since the year 2011, the solar ink is printed in what is known as the roll-to-roll process onto plastic, similar to polyethylene terephthalate, commonly known as PET.
PET is the high gloss, transparent, and crack-resistant plastic used to make bottles of carbonated beverages. Manufacturers classify PET as a first class type of plastic. The open-air printing is done with an off-the-shelf printing equipment, which the team adapted for compatibility with the solar ink. The aim of the project was the development of printable solar panels that vary in appearance or colour.
For developing countries and remote regions, the technology will allow affordable and accessible energy source that could easily be deployed. Organic cells, unlike traditional solar panels that produce electricity, have the potential to enable direct printing onto such materials as windows and roofing, and create opportunities for intriguing designs of building integration.
Additionally, the printable solar panels required them to be conformable, lightweight, and capable of stable voltage delivery indoors or under low lighting. According to the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium’s website, the technology can potentially reduce dependence on traditional electricity sources “dramatically” in developed countries like Australia.
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