Electronic ink: solar modules from the printer
The first test facility at the University of Newcastle in Australia is intended to set a new direction for the solar industry: with special ink, researchers have succeeded in producing solar modules via conventional printer presses.
It sounds a little strange, as you know the stable, massive solar modules, which in many countries cover so many surfaces and roofs and directly face to the sun. But a research team in Australia started a photovoltaic system last week to demonstrate a technology that is based on the printing of modules by conventional printers.
Professor Paul Dastoor, project manager at the University of Newcastle (UON) says: “No other source of renewable energy can be produced as quickly as our solar modules from the printer. In the laboratory, we can easily produce hundreds of meters of material per load. On commercial printers, this could easily be many kilometers. If only ten of these printers were operating around the clock, we could supply 1,000 households per day with solar modules.“
This creates solar modules in the printer
The production of the solar modules takes place by means of printing with an advanced electronic ink. It is applied to wafer-thin, laminated sheets via conventional printer presses. “After five years of development, we are able to produce all components of our technology in large quantities. Only non-toxic, carbon-based substances are used. These are processed further with water-based ink or colou, “says Professor Dastoor.
Production is extremely cost-effective
According to UON, the technology is extremely affordable. A printed square meter of solar modules only costs a mere 8 USD.
With the commissioning of the test facility, the researchers now want to inspect in real conditions how the modules behave in everyday environments, what yields they can achieve, and how the weather affects them. Professor Dastoor expects the printed solar modules to produce a more constant energy flow than conventional PV modules. They should also perform better in low light conditions and on cloudy days.
Supposedly, the material is so sensitive that it can generate minimal energy currents from moonlight.
Usage could provide poorer regions with electricity
The low weight of the printed solar modules facilitates their mounting. In the test environment they are fastened to walls and roofs by Velcro. Like carpets, the long tarpaulins can simply be rolled out.
“On the one hand, the technology is cost-effective, but on the other hand it is also very easy to transport. This provides ideal conditions for use in less privileged regions of the world, where 1.2 billion people live without electricity. ”
According to UON, the printed solar modules are the lightest energy source in the world, measured by the current energy production per kilogram. In addition, there is no noise made during the production of electricity. It would also be possible to use the material as a ship’s sail or ship deck.
The industry is already showing interest
With CHEP, a well-known company is already showing interest in the technology. The global logistics giant is planning a pilot project in which one of the logistics centers will be equipped with the printing modules next year.
“We see great potential to expand our sustainable business model with our cooperation with UON,” emphasizes Lachlan Feggans, Senior Manager for Sustainability for the Asia-Pacific region at CHEP.
In the coming months, Professor Dastoor will present the technology at trade fairs and exhibitions. Then, for the first time, the public will be able to see the material, to grasp it and to get an impression of the futuristic technology.