I had heard about printable solar cells before, but now, a team of researchers from the Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany have developed a method that makes it possible to print solar cells on ordinary paper, possibly opening a way of saying goodbye to those bulky pieces of silicon installed on rooftops.
The idea of paper printing also reduces costs. The technology, known as 3PV (Printed Paper Photovoltaics) uses methods similar to those already applied in printing magazines.
The scientists said this discovery would be “a paradigm shift in solar technology,” as it would allow producing much cheaper electricity than conventional solar cells.
Naturally oxidized zinc is applied in a special printing process as the base electrode. Then, the transparent counter electrode is printed with a conductive polymer called PEDOT.
Although efficiency figures aren’t something they can brag about, lying somewhere at 1.3 percent, the researchers are optimistic. Tino Zillger, researcher at the Institute for Print and Media Technology and leader of the project states that “the materials are constantly optimised and we are confident that the 3PV parameters can be further improved.”
Their aim is to reach at least a 5 percent efficiency to make their paper-printed solar panels competitive with those already on the market, both in terms of price and quality.
“In nature we find a model for this strategy: even green leaves only have a moderate energy conversion efficiency of four to seven percent and a life time of less than one year. Nevertheless, this approach is obviously successful,” explains Prof. Dr. Arved Hübler, one of the researchers.