Scientists in Australia say they are close to bringing a new form of solar power to the market. The Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC) has developed a way to print solar cells directly onto plastic or other materials.
VICOSC is composed of scientists from Australia’s national science agency—the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)—and researchers at the University of Melbourne and Monash University. The group has been developing the method since 2007. Most solar panels today are made out of silicon, but in this case, the ink itself captures sunlight and converts it into electricity. This would give manufacturers the ability to integrate solar cells onto things like smartphone, tablet, and laptop cases. Right now, the printed cells are 10 times less efficient than standard silicon solar panels, but the team hopes to improve on the prototype.
“This is a big step forward because you can put these cells anywhere you can think of,” Fiona Scholes, group leader of integrated systems and devices at CSIRO, told Guardian Australia. “Also, the consistency is better than silicon–they work well in cloudy conditions.”
Scholes told Mashable that these low-cost, lightweight, and flexible cells could eventually be put to use in off-grid remote locations and developing communities. CSIRO has been using them on its facility roof for the past 18 months to help provide power.
VICOSC hopes the printable solar cells will help reduce dependence on traditional electricity sources in countries like Australia. Scholes also told Guardian Australia that CSIRO has gotten some interest from companies that want to help manufacture the new technology.