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On a roll: CSIRO printing Australia’s largest solar cells

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A new solar cell printer installed at CSIRO’s Melbourne labs is allowing scientists to produce Australia’s largest thin film solar cells, at 10 times their previous size.

Purchased over the last three months, the $200,000 printer has allowed researchers from the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC) – a collaboration between CSIRO, the University of Melbourne, Monash University and industry partners – to print organic photovoltaic cells the size of an A3 sheet of paper.

solar cell printerCSIRO

VICOSC’s new solar cell printer installed at CSIRO. Image Credit: CSIRO

The consortium has developed processes that use spray coating, reverse gravure and slot-dye coating as well as screen printing – technology that has gone from producing solar cells the size of a fingernail to 10cm square in three years. The new printer means the VICOSC team have now made the jump to producing solar cells on sheets 30cm wide.

At this size, says CSIRO materials scientist Scott Watkins, Australia is definitely up there with the best in the world – and vastly increases the range applications the solar cells can be used for. “We can set them into advertising signage, powering lights and other interactive elements,” says Dr Watkins. “We can even embed them into laptop cases to provide backup power for the machine inside.”

“In the short term, we’re looking for applications in consumer devices and small integrated electronics. In the longer term, we see these materials being able to be coated onto buildings, into windows and on roofs to provide power in a wide variety of locations and circumstances,” Watkins says in the video posted below.

The organic PV cells, which produce 10–50 watts of power per square metre (although on smaller, lab-scale devices, power outputs equivalent to over 80W per square metre have been achieved) could also eventually be used to improve the efficiency of more traditional silicon solar panels.

“The different types of cells capture light from different parts of the solar spectrum. So rather than being competing technologies, they are actually very complementary,” says Dr Watkins.

“We need to be at the forefront of developing new technologies that match our solar endowment, stimulate our science and support local, high-tech manufacturing,” he says.

“While the consortium is focused on developing applications with current industrial partners there are opportunities to work with other companies through training programs or pilot-scale production trials.”

VICOSC project coordinator and University of Melbourne researcher David Jones says another of the advantages of the team’s approach to the technology is that they’re using existing printing techniques, making it a very accessible technology.

“We’re using the same techniques that you would use if you were screen printing an image on to a T-Shirt,” he says.

Using semiconducting inks, the researchers print the cells straight onto paper-thin flexible plastic or steel. With the ability to print at speeds of up to ten metres per minute, this means they can produce one cell every two seconds.

A complementary screen printing line is also being installed at nearby Monash University, making the Clayton Manufacturing and Materials Precinct one of the largest organic solar cell printing facilities in the world.

As for the cost of the technology, the ARENA-backed consortium is currently only purchasing materials on a research scale, but it anticipates that when buying on a larger scale, component costs will be significantly lower and pricing at around $1/W will be achievable.

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  • Louise

    How about wall-paper solar cells and get a paper-hanger to fit them instead of just painting walls?

    How about a solar power cloth line, replace the cloth with printed solar sheets.

    No need for aluminum framing and heavy glass cover.

    The solar cloth line concept could be build a bit bigger, like 20 meters wide, the width of a residential property.

    – 4 posts, desired height

    – install a pulley/conveyor system

    – hang/suspend printed plastic sheet on the super large cloth line system

    – numerous researcher working on printed solar cell say that the technology is not as dependent on “line of sight”/direct sun light as the traditional solar panels are. Can work with indirect light.

    – Printed solar cells do not have to last 25 years, the pulley/conveyor system to hang them, should last that long and longer.

    – design the cloth line conveyor system so that the printed solar sheets could be fixed to the cloth line system from the ground, without the need for a ladder.

    – That way even if the printed solar sheets were lasting 5 years only , they could be easily replaced by letting the conveyor move so that the person standing on the ground could simply replace them, while standing on the ground.

    – Then have the conveyor travel up the posts to the desired height and then across the entire width of the property.

    – That way even if the printed solar sheets only produced 2% electricity, it should still be enough to make a single family home energy autonomous.

  • Braden Bond

    CSIRO is devoted to making cosmic cells – a commercialised, cheerfully
    accessible solar technology – competitive, longer abiding and more
    environmentally continuous. pay
    someone to write a paper

  • Charles Cary

    I think is dedicated to making space cells– a commercialized, willingly easy to get to astral knowledge costco membership deals 2015 – bloodthirsty, longer enduring and additional