CTRL+P: Printing Australia’s largest solar cells

(L-R) Dr David Jones, Professor Andrew Holmes and Dr Scott Watkins.

(L-R) Dr David Jones, Professor Andrew Holmes and Dr Scott Watkins.

Scientists have produced the largest flexible, plastic solar cells in Australia – 10 times the size of what they were previously able to – thanks to a new solar cell printer that has been installed at CSIRO.

The printer has allowed researchers from the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium to print organic photovoltaic cells the size of an A3 sheet of paper.

According to materials scientist Dr Scott Watkins, printing cells on such a large scale opens up a huge range of possibilities for pilot applications.

“There are so many things we can do with cells this size,” he says. “We can set them into advertising signage, powering lights and other interactive elements. We can even embed them into laptop cases to provide backup power for the machine inside.”

Using semiconducting inks, the researchers print the cells straight onto paper-thin flexible plastic or steel. With the ability to print at speeds of up to ten metres per minute, this means they can produce one cell every two seconds.

As the researchers continue to scale up their equipment, the possibilities will become even greater for this technology. Eventually they hope to see solar cells being laminated to the windows that line skyscrapers and embedded onto roofing materials.

Read more in the media release.

15 Comments on “CTRL+P: Printing Australia’s largest solar cells”

  1. Howard Gray says:

    Let’s hope scientific ingenuity outpaces political stagnation – it’s the only hope we have as a species – any nearly every other species!

  2. Howard Gray says:

    ‘any’ should read ‘and’

    • marcus aurelius says:

      lol do we still think that this is the only climatic state, even in regards to co2 levels, that life can exist in on this planet?
      a few minutes of study shows one that we are the lowest co2 state the planet has ever seen, and that life existed quite happily, ( don’t be shocked ), before the simpsons and facebook.
      it actually existed for millions upon millions of years- at many, many, many times our current co2 levels.
      check out the co2 levels at the start of the cambrian period.
      thinking that we can break the cyle of life or save it is equally moronic, we certainly can damage existing organisms and organic systems but we don’t have a hope of ending life- even causing the planet to fragment would see pieces of the earth move about in the solar system and spread simple life forms.

      • Howard Gray says:

        I never quite get this kind of response – its not the climate denier response but the one that says climate change is the norm for the planet, the latter of course undeniable. That is then taken to justify us carrying on in our profligate and selfish ways and letting our descendants – like my grandies aged 0-6 – have a difficult existence as the rate of change outpaces our ability to adapt to it. What should I say to them – sorry? As an atheist I am quite content with us being another of the millions of species that have each had a go at life on Earth, but that doesn’t mean that I have given up on the survival instinct as Marcus seems to have. He just seems to see CO2 as that invisible gas – not the sea-level, ocean acidity, ocean current and climate changes etc which is how it will – and already can be seen to – manifest itself.

  3. Colin Craig says:

    We would be very interested to follow further developments with regards to installation of this technology to window and spandrel glazing.

    • Peter Dennis Ward says:

      Seems ideal for the horticultural / nursety industries and demostic hot houses where you could run low enegy lighting anf cooling /exhust fans and circulating of hydroponoc fluids at no running cost. Peter Ward Merriwa NSW

  4. Tim says:

    What a fantastic piece of flexi-tech!! Where can I get hold of some? I’d be more than willing to attach them to my 4×4 and continue testing the product if that’s viable…

  5. Wil Gardner says:

    What’s the energy efficiency and what’s the currrent $/Watt?

    • Hi Will. We’re currently making devices that are 10-50W/m2 on a large scale and towards 90W/m2 on a very small scale. We’re only making devices in research (small) quantities at the moment so our costs are not representative of what you’d face if doing them on a commercial scale. Other groups have modeled prices and have shown that $1/W will be possible.

  6. Arie Cornet says:

    Are those solars cells available for commercial sales ?

  7. Greg B says:

    These would be useful for all kinds of outdoor activities….camping etc…

  8. John English says:

    I can see this technology having a place in undeveloped countries where many communities are not on the electricity grid.
    Imagine panels cheaply applied to roofing materials connected to batteries, so that enough energy could be produced during daylight hours to provide power and light at night.
    Keep up the good work. You are on a winner with this one.

  9. naeemae says:

    This will allow for the ease of accessibility and reduced cost of solar cells. However, printing the device does not necessarily optimise the power conversion efficiencies. The researchers most definitely would need to improve various device structural properties and materials in order to enhance PCEs.

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