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New Printer Produces Paper-Sized Organic Photovoltaic Cells

A new organic photovoltaic cell printer can produce paper-sized sheets of solar cells quickly and efficiently, effectively enabling wider adoption of solar power.

The new printer, developed by the the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC), is capable of turning out paper-thin, flexible solar cells at a rate of one every two seconds by “printing” them using semiconducting inks.

“There are so many things we can do with cells this size. 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.” – CSIRO materials scientist Dr Scott Watkins

Just three years ago, the development team was making cells just 10cm square, but now, using virtually the same process as screenprinting a t-shirt, the printer can create solar cells 30cm wide. The cells are printed directly onto plastic or steel substrates, and the machine can print at speeds as fast as 10 meters per minute.

“Eventually we see these being laminated to windows that line skyscrapers. By printing directly to materials like steel, we’ll also be able to embed cells onto roofing materials.” – University of Melbourne researcher Dr David Jones

According to CSIRO, the organic PV cells, producing 10 to 50 W per square meter, are not necessarily a competing technology with conventional silicon solar panels, but rather could be complementary by improving their efficiency. The solar cell printing technology could be scaled up to produce even larger cells, which could open up even more options for solar energy applications.

The Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium is a research collaboration between CSIRO, The University of Melbourne, Monash University, BlueScope Steel, Robert Bosch SEA, Innovia Films and Innovia Security. It is supported by the Victorian State Government and the Australian Government through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

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