Scientists Create 3D Printed Solar Ink for Everyday Use
When it comes to personal electronics, solar panels have long been used to power small calculators, but that’s where it’s stopped. People have wondered why these solar panels can’t be implemented into things like smart phones. But now there may be an answer in the form of 3D printed solar ink.
Under a research collaboration between the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC), The University of Melbourne, Monash University, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and various other industry partners, 3D printed solar cells have been developed.
In Australia, a team of 50 scientists and researchers have produced unique solar panel from 3D printed solar ink. It’s still in the early stages, but once completed, the panels may be used to power phones, laptops, and hopefully larger things like buildings in the future.
The solar panels have been in development since 2007, but have only just reached the stage where they may soon be marketable. In the last three years, the team have progressed from creating cells the size of fingernails, to cells 30cm wide, roughly the same size as an A3 sheet of paper.
“There are so many things we can do with cells this size,” said materials scientist Dr. Scott Watkins. “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.”
“iPad covers, laptop bags, skins of iPhones will no longer be just for casing electronics, but to collect some energy as well and power those electronics,” added Fiona Scholes, a senior research scientist.
The plastic solar panels are flexible and are ten times the size they once were thanks to the new solar cell 3D printer installed CSIRO. The printed has been modified to work using solar ink, where the team of scientists used it to print 3D organic photovoltaic cells by depositing the ink onto materials such as plastic. The solar ink-covered materials were then placed in direct sunlight, where they captured the sun’s rays and converted it into electricity.
The team have placed the solar cells on the CSIRO roof for the past eighteen months to assess their results. They have concluded that the 3D printed solar ink panels are approximately ten times less effective than standard solar panels, but the team hope to improve on this.
Traditional solar panels use silicon cells, where these new solar ink cells are printed directly onto plastic, making them much cheaper. Furthermore, it also allows this renewable energy source to be efficiently and economically transported anywhere.
Solar panels have come a long way since the days of only being used in small calculators. It’s early days at the moment, but 3D printed solar ink does seem to offer a potentially viable option for sustainable sources of power.
Posted by Wayne Hogan