Designer flexible solar panels for small devices

Interesting Engineering
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Solar energy doesn’t have to be boring as the VTT Technical Centre of Finland has found out. They have come up with a way of printing decorative graphics onto flexible organic solar panels. The process means that energy can be collected from indoor lighting along with sunlight and this can be used to provide power to small devices.

[Image Source: VTT]

The new process means that organic solar panels can be mass produced via a roll to roll method at around 100 meters per minute. The process relies on one rotary screen printing layer along with two gravure layers on a substrate made of plastic. Functional layers can be printed between plastic foils and then encapsulated with barrier films.

decorative-flexible-solar-panelsjpg-2[Image Source: VTT]

The method allows the flexible solar panels to be just 0.2mm in thickness and this includes the polymer layers and electrodes. The small solar panels can be placed indoors or on outdoor surfaces along with machines and it means that they can not only provide energy but can be used as works of art.

The process has been tested and printing of leaf shaped photovoltaic cells has taken place and gone towards creating a square meter of solar panel surface. It generated 3.2 amps of electricity with 10.4 watts.


[Image Source: VTT]

While the flexible designer solar panels are said to be cost-effective, light and have material consumption that is low, they have lower efficiency than the typical rigid solar panels. Researchers are working to improve the efficiency of them by working on roll to toll manufacturing for perovskite solar panels. The results of the tests have been promising and the first of the solar cells made are said to have around 5 times the performance of the organic cells.

If the research proves to be worthwhile then it might not be long before the typical boring black coloured solar panels are replaced with something more designer and prettier to look at.


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