A team of researchers at MIT have developed an advanced technologythat enables printing of solar cells on sheets of paper. The inkdeposited on the paper is the magic ingredient that transforms ordinarypaper into electricity generating solar cells. The process of printingis extremely simple and cost effective, not too different from regularinkjet printing.
This new technology marks a deviation from the earlier methods ofsolar cell creation where substrates had to be exposed to severeconditions like liquids or high temperatures. Instead of liquids, thenew technique uses vapors and the temperature used is lower than 120degrees Celsius which is not too harsh on the substrate. The gentlenessof this technique enables the use of untreated substrates like cloth,plastic and paper for solar cell creation.
The printing of photovoltaic cells on paper is a meticulous processwhich involves five layers of material being successively deposited on a single sheet of paper to create a cell pattern on the surface. Also the process must necessarily take place in a vacuum chamber. Thistechnology functions even when an airplane is made out of the papercontaining the solar cells. Researchers also elaborated that nosignificant performance loss was observed when solar cells printed onthin PET plastic sheets were folded and unfolded 1000 times. This showsthat the new technology is far superior to the one used commerciallywhere solar cells on the same material fail to perform after a singlefold.
The paper/plastic substrates used by this technique are considerablythinner than the usual glass substrates. Thus it is possible tofabricate scalable solar cells which capable of producing extremely high watts per kilogram. There are several technological applications ofthis kind of product especially in distant locations where number ofcells being delivered per load makes a considerable difference.
The team at MIT has left no stone unturned in fool proofing thedevice. They have demonstrated that the device is functional even whenlaser printing is done on top of a completed photovoltaic surface. Theshelf life of the product was also demonstrated by operating the solarcells produced in previous years. In conventional solar cells the costof secondary elements like substrate, supporting structure andinstallation costs are higher than the actual cost of cells. The use ofthis technique can help reduce cost of solar installations like windowshades, wallpapers drastically.
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