Going green. Reducing carbon emissions. Relying more and more on renewable energy sources. There’s no arguing that these things are important. But so far, they are somewhat difficult to attain. For example, there is still some debate regarding the efficiency of solar panels, when considering cost vs. savings.
The future, however, is looking radiant for solar cells. We told you a while ago that researchers at Oregon State University managed to print solar cells using inkjet printing. Now researchers at MIT have taken it further by printing the solar cells on other soft materials, such as cloth and even thin PET (basically plastic bottles). To create an array of photovoltaic cells on the paper, five layers of material need to be deposited onto the same sheet of paper in successive passes, using a mask made of paper to form the patterns of cells on the surface. This takes place in a vacuum chamber, and is similar to the process used to make the silvery lining in a bag of chips
While the efficiency of this new technology is still quite low (about 1 per cent), the team is looking to advance their technique and hopefully get it closer to 12 per cent, which is the efficiency of standard solar cells. For the moment though, having proved that we don’t have to use expensive, cumbersome and heavy materials to create solar cells, they have made a huge step forward. Let’s wish them the best of luck and wait for the next big step, which is bound to come rather sooner that later.