Solar ink to generate commercial interest

Renewable energy generation that allows flexible solar power cells to be printed off and attached to places such as windows and smartphones is close to commercialisation, the CSIRO has said.

Work on printed solar cells has been under way since 2007 through the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium, which includes CSIRO, and Melbourne and Monash universities.

A printer at the CSIRO office in Clayton, Victoria, has been able to make prototypes of the solar cells in order to improve their efficiency.

The technology consists of a type of “solar ink”, which is designed to capture sunlight and turn it into electricity. A fine layer of this ink is then deposited onto a material, such as plastic, as reported by The Guardian.

This allows for cells to be embedded into windows, effectively tinting them, to generate electricity. They can be printed in smaller sizes to be used to charge devices such as smartphones and laptops. The printed cells are 10 times less efficient than standard solar panels, which are made of silicon, but scientists hope to improve this further.

Group leader of integrated systems and devices at CSIRO’s manufacturing flagship Fiona Scholes said several companies, such as Dyesol, had expressed interest in helping commercialise the technology.

“We can’t manufacture them here, but we are at the point where they can be taken up by a manufacturer. This is a big step forward because you can put these cells anywhere you can think of. Also the consistency is better than silicon – they work well in cloudy conditions,” ” she told Guardian Australia.

Funding for the project has been provided by the Victorian government and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.