Printable solar cells

For those of you who want to use solar power but haven’t been able to afford the high initial costs, printable solar cells have the potential to solve the problem. Printable solar cells would be much lower in cost than traditional photovoltaic panels. They are also lightweight and flexible, making printable solar cells much more versatile for a variety of possible applications.

The printable solar cells are created with particles of semiconducting titanium dioxide that are coated with dyes that absorb light. These particles are then immersed in an electrolyte and this solar cell solution is used as ink to imprint thin plastic film. The principle is the same as how your ink-jet printer works only without traditional paper and inks.

Printable solar cells make use of nanotechnology in their production. Developments have greatly increased the control of working with nanomaterials in recent years giving the scientists working with solar energy the ability to precisely order the nanoparticles. This is what has made the new printable solar technology feasible.

While interesting to read about and very promising for the future, as of right now the printable solar cells is only cost effective in large scale production. More research is being done to increase the durability of the printable solar cells. Right now, both the plastic polymers and the dyes used to create printable solar cells are extremely sensitive to oxygen. They are also easily damaged by intense sunlight, temperature fluctuations and windblown debris. In order to be practical, scientists are working on a workable hermetic seal so that the printable solar cells could be as durable as traditional solar cells made from silicon.

Similar technology shows the possibility of solar cells being incorporated into paint that could be sprayed on cars and building materials. Of course printable solar cells that can be used on a wide scale are not advanced enough yet but the possibilities are very exciting. Many researchers and developers in the solar energy field envision a solar energy grid replacing the current electric grid that is in place now.

As fuel prices continue to rise and fossil fuels have become more scarce, many people are pushing for alternative sources of power. Also driving the quest for cheaper and freely available energy is the concern for the environment. Global warming is largely caused by the pollutants given off when fossil fuels are burned. These pollutants are released into the air from every gas burning vehicle as well as power plants that burn coal, oil or natural gas to generate electricity.

The sun puts out enough energy to produce all the power needed in the world if we could only harness it more effectively and less expensively. There are no pollutants emitted of any kind when using solar energy so it is a clean source of power. There are two main drawbacks to current solar power technology – bulky solar arrays and the high initial cost. Printable solar cells could be the solution to both drawbacks.

A sustainable energy system is possible if we fully exploit solar power. By building on the nanotechnology and solar technologies behind the creation of printable solar cells, the efficiency of the energy capture and distribution will continue to improve. Using the printable solar cells in film or paints, the traditional bulky PV panel solar arrays on the rooftops could eventually be replaced.

As printable solar cells become more developed, more uses will be found for them and more applications will be built upon the initial technology. Someday in the not too distant future, perhaps we will be able to layer the film on our roofs in order to plug in to the worldwide solar power grid.

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