MIT researchers have developed a method for producing photovoltaic cells on paper and fabric.
Innovative solar technologies are popping up at a staggering rate. Last week MIT announced a new method for producing PV cells that’s compares in price and simplicity to printing photos at home. Developed by a team of MIT researchers and financed by the Eni-MIT Alliance Solar Frontiers Program and the National Science Foundation, this solar film allows for solar collection on the go.
Special “inks” deposited as an array of rectangles on a foldable paper sheet is all that is required to collect power from the sun. This method of production limits the need for harsh chemicals or high temperatures, allowing the use of fine materials such as paper and fabric.
Five layers of material are “printed” onto one sheet via repetitive passes, all done within a vacuum chamber. MIT reported that the cells can also be printed on PET plastic and the film can be folded up to 1,000 times without any loss of functionality.
“We have demonstrated quite thoroughly the robustness of this technology,” Bulović says. In addition, because of the low weight of the paper or plastic substrate compared to conventional glass or other materials, “we think we can fabricate scalable solar cells that can reach record-high watts-per-kilogram performance. For solar cells with such properties, a number of technological applications open up,” he says.
Although the printed cells currently only have an efficiency rate of 1%, the cost effectiveness of using a cheap substrate (paper compared to the glass traditionally used for PV panels) provides an affordable option for solar energy collection. MIT researchers believe with further testing and research they will be able to improve the efficiency rate, but for now the printed cells will be limited to powering small electronic devices.
Article by Karen MacKay, appearing courtesy Crisp Green.