Scientists Develop Solar Cells That Can Be Ink-Jet Printed

Trevor English

3D printing promises to be the renewable energy source of the future, but modern manufacturing techniques are a little lacking. A team of scientists and engineers from Alto university have come up with a method of producing solar cells through ink-jet printing. The technology is so much like printing that cells can be made in any sort of image you desire, like the one of the team below.

printed solar cells[Image Source: Alto]

"The slow process in which the light absorbing dye molecules are adsorbed from solution on the nanocrystalline TiO2 photoelectrode film has been a handicap to the fast and cost-effective fabrication of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) using printing techniques." ~ Hashmi

The key market potential seen in this technique is self-illuminating signage that would require no wiring or electricity. The black photovoltaic ink absorbs the energy from sunlight and converts it into electrical energy, much like normal solar panels. Each print can be adjusted to allow the transparency to maximize energy absorption as desired. In reality, the ink created by the team can be used in a normal ink-jet printer, which means that manufacturing of custom solar panels may be coming into the same realm as 3D printing.

"In addition to allowing precise control of dye loading required for dispensing just the right amount of dye to achieve uniform and full coloration of the TiO2 films without any need for washing off the excess dye, inkjet printing also makes it possible to freely adjust the amount and position of the dye to create DSSCs with tailored transparency, color density gradients, and patterns of one or more dyes on the same electrode." ~ Hashmi

solar cell team[Image Source: Alto]

According to Futurism, the team tested the panels over the course of 1000 heating and light cycles and found absolutely no decrease in efficiency. If you are curious about reading more into the study, the research was published in Energy & Environmental Science here.

SEE ALSO: Are printable solar cells the future of the global solar sector?

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