MIT’s Printed paper solar cells could be installed with “a staple gun”

May 6, 2010
MIT’s Printed paper solar cells could be installed with “a staple gun”

Today, solar panels can be fragile, unwieldy to install and expensive; in a decade's time we could be wallpapering the outside of our houses with them.  Researchers at MIT have created an inkjet-style printing technology that can lay carbon-based organic semiconductor solar cells down onto a paper substrate, one of the headline breakthroughs that coincides with the opening of their new multi-million dollar Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Research Center.  According to center director Vladimir Bulovic, it paves the way for a time where people "could use a staple gun to install a solar panel."

At present, the technology trades efficiency for ease of application.  The conversion rate - the efficiency of turning sunlight into electricity - is only between 1.5 and 2-percent; however, the relatively straightforward manufacturing process would mean a greater surface area could be covered at low cost, making up for the low efficiency.

The carbon-based organic semiconductor material can be applied to pretty much any substrate that is stable at room temperature.  However, it's still some way from commercial viability; according to Bulovic, the technologies the center is developing are only in the first few years of a development cycle that could last anywhere between 5 and 10 years.

[via CNET]

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