Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

May 19

MIT Researchers Print a Solar Cell on Paper

Posted in Energy Inventions | Photovoltaic Cells | Solar Power

Solar Cell on Paper We love the idea of clean and green fuel. But they come with certain disadvantages. First one is they are heavy on pocket of a commoner. Second disadvantage is their power conversion rate is quite low. Last one is you need storage space to save all the power converted by a clean and green technology. Now MIT researchers are coming out of solar cells printed on paper. Though the technology still has to wait for years before it can be converted into a commercially viable entity but it’s an interesting development.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have effectively coated paper with a solar cell. It is a part of a suite of research projects aimed at energy breakthroughs.

Susan Hockfield, MIT’s president, and Paolo Scaroni, CEO of Italian oil company Eni, formally dedicated the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Research Center. Eni financed the research project by investing $5 million into the center. This project is also financed by National Science Foundation. They are granting a fund of $2 million.

The MIT people took inspiration from the inkjet printer. They molded the solar paper panels on the similar lines. They used organic semi conductor material. The technique will be quite helpful in lowering the weight of solar panels. “If you could use a staple gun to install a solar panel, there could be a lot of value,” Vladimir Bulovic, director of the National Science Foundation, said.

MIT researchers utilized carbon-based dyes. The efficiency of paper based solar cells is not great, at around 1.5% to 2%. But Vladimir Bulovic says that one can use any material if it can be deposited at room temperature. He further says, “Absolutely, the trick was coming up with ways to use paper,” he said.

Prof. Karen Gleason is the head of the MIT research team. She has submitted a paper for scientific review but it has yet to be published. MIT and Eni have confirmed that this is the first time a solar cell has been printed on paper.

During the press conference, Paolo Scaroni said that Eni is funding the center because the company understands that hydrocarbons will eventually run out and believes that solar can be a replacement, although the currently available technology isn’t sufficient enough.

Paolo Scaroni said, “We are not very active (in alternative energy) today because we don’t believe today’s technologies are the answer of our problems.”

  • AllEnergySolar

    Not impressed. This may be the first time they have printed on paper, but the concept has been in use for much longer. I don’t see the need to print it on paper when it only has an efficiency of 1-2%. Why are they wasting money and time figuring out how to do that when they could be using that money for more important things, like actually implementing solar energy on homes and businesses.

  • Fred Flintstone

    Yeah! I agree with AllEnergySolar! Innovation is so overrated. Why the hell do we have places like MIT experimenting and creating new technologies? Why are we wasting time and money on such research when we could be forcing people to implement current solar technologies that most (BY FAR) people cannot afford anyway? MIT is trying to create something more affordable? I don’t get it.

  • styke

    Paper sounds like a good idea and may reduce costs significantly. I wonder what applications a low cost, low efficiency, paper solar cell might have. It won’t be on rooftops, because paper wouldn’t stand up to that kind of environment. Basically, I doubt it would be used outside. It won’t be on calculators, because they need a more durable cell.

    Maybe something new.

  • Confused these guys have been working on bring this to market for at least 4 years now, don’t see how this is a breakthrough, seems like they just copied an idea which was already out there and being invested in.

  • Edgar

    Efficiency is not the most important thing, cost per watt is. While a paper solar panel may not be very practical, the technology used they may provide ways to make cheaper solar panels.

  • Sivakumar M.U.P.

    Good effort keep it up. Hope Solar paints (photo voltoic paints- coating on all base material) be feasible for a commoner packet.

    Best of luck.

  • Nicholas Nagao

    I think the breakthrough is in the process NOT the final product. The idea of cheap printing of solar panels has HUGE potential in my opinion. If everyone could print solar panels easily, I would imagine the rate of adoption and innovation would be MUCH higher than currently. Don’t get lost in the details, look at the big idea, which is NOT the paper, but rather THE WAY they PRINTED the paper.

    Please come by to hear about our community’s thoughts on this and more. The URL for the discussion I started about this is here:

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