Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Aug 31

Solar Cells To Be Printed Like Newspaper

Posted in Energy Inventions | Photovoltaic Cells | Solar Power

Printable Solar Cells Sunlight is a non exhaustible source of energy without contributing greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Still it is miles away from replacing the fossil fuels. Many reasons can be sited. One of its biggest disadvantages is it is still out of reach for the common man and it has a long break-even period. Unless a product or service is embraced by masses it can’t be treated as alternative source to fossil fuels. But scientists are tirelessly working on solar cells. It is believed that solar cells could soon be produced more cheaply using nanoparticle “inks”. These nanoparticles can help in printing solar cells like newspaper or painted onto the sides of buildings or rooftops to absorb electricity-producing sunlight.


Brian Korgel along with his team is working on this low-cost, nanomaterial solution that can replace the current photovoltaics. Brian Korgel is a chemical engineer at University of Texas at Austin. He is quite hopeful that his new technique coupled with different manufacturing processes will lower the price of solar cells to one tenth. Korgel outlines the needs of cheaper solar cells in the market, “That’s essentially what’s needed to make solar-cell technology and photovoltaics widely adopted. The sun provides a nearly unlimited energy resource, but existing solar energy harvesting technologies are prohibitively expensive and cannot compete with fossil fuels.”

Korgel is utilizing the light-absorbing nanomaterials. Their specialty is that they are 10,000 times thinner than a strand of hair. Their microscopic size makes it possible to attain higher-efficiency devices. The inks could be printed on a roll-to-roll printing process. They can use a plastic substrate or stainless steel for printing. It seems that this type of ink could be used to paint a rooftop or building and it doesn’t look like a tall claim.

Korgel vouches for his idea, “You’d have to paint the light-absorbing material and a few other layers as well. This is one step in the direction towards paintable solar cells.”

Copper indium gallium selenide or CIGS are used for the development of the solar cells. These materials are cheaper in comparison to current materials utilized in the solar cells and easy on environment too. Korgel points out the superiority of his materials over conventional material, “CIGS has some potential advantages over silicon. It’s a direct band gap semiconductor, which means that you need much less material to make a solar cell, and that’s one of the biggest potential advantages.”

There is a catch though. This project team has been able to achieve only one percent efficiency till now. They need to meet the target of ten percent at least. Korgel too feels the same, “If we get to 10 per cent, then there’s real potential for commercialization. If it works, I think you could see it being used in three to five years. He also explained that these links are semi transparent and apart from roofs they could be pasted on the windows too.”

  • TIM HAYES

    Haven’t you guys ever heard of Nanosolar? (Nanosolar.com)

    They are out of San Jose, Ca., with a manufacturing facility of near 100,00 square feet. With the aid of HP, Google, Swiss Gb and other investors they have perfected the printed solar cell using no vacuum and nano-particles. Unfortunately, they only sell municipal sized systems (and handbags) at the moment. But if you are into purchasing a megawatt for $900k, that’s 90 cents a watt, they are the people to see. They will even sell you their process.

  • matt peffly

    So what is the difference between what Konarka and Innovatight and this article. They are both already doing printing of PV. Is it the material? They are both claiming to use nano to make their “inks” for printing.

  • Leslie

    Is this being promoted as a new Idea?

    A company called Nanosolar (http://www.nanosolar.com) has been in business for a while now making these very same solar cells/panels.

    Thank you

  • justanothertech

    NanoSolar already has an efficient, high output product available using the same ‘printed’ technology.

    see: http://www.nanosolar.com/products.htm

  • Michael Sun

    Nice issue you posted here buddy. Solar cell energy is playing more and more broader role to help supply electric need of people. It’s a pleasure to have such green tech. Yet, we need to socialize further about homemade solar panels. What we hope is the massive use of solar energy instead of gas and oil.

  • slaps

    Nanosolar is a joke. If it was real, I could buy it. They are very proud of their high speed press, but it is apparently shut down almost all the time. What is wrong with this picture? Much more expensive solar cells are being sold everywhere, and nanosolar has only sold a couple systems since they started. Which means they ran their high speed press about 20 minutes since they bought it. Only silly-con valley morons would actually believe they make anything other than hot air. If they really had figured out how to make solar panels cheaply by printing, and using their high speed printing press of which they are so proud, then the world would be covered in their stuff. But they can’t. Instead, they make these huge one off projects, using who knows what technique, probably at a huge loss, to keep up the illusion that they are able to make solar cells. And, in doing this, they suck venture money out of the real solar energy business and try to put a damper on stuff like this article is about.

  • http://solarpowerforhomesonline.com Keith Elliott

    slaps, I haven’t been on the nanosolar site for awhile, but it is my understanding that all their production was to be shipped over to Europe for the first 5 years. It is a sad fact that they are far more attuned to the use of solar over there then here in North America.

    Until we get rid of the obscene oil subsidies, not much is going to change. And in any event, Google can well afford a few million to play with this technology.

  • slaps

    Kieth, you should check out their site. They fired their old executive team and brought in a bunch of new guys. There is a reason that happened. They installed 1.1 MW capacity last year, which is unbelievably minor and insignificant. They continue to promise great things in the future. And, by their existence, half a billion dollars was not available to invest in other companies, companies that are actually delivering on their promises.

    I hope my investment in EESTOR pays off…


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