Researchers at the University of Newcastle in Australia have begun testing printed solar panels, in an effort to reduce cost.

Paul Dastoor, a professor at the university is an expert in organic electronics. This field relates to non-toxic carbon-based materials that are liquid soluble. Dasoor has been working on creating solar ink for years and has recently developed carbon-based ink that reacts to sunlight the same way a silicon solar panel does.

Using conventional printing presses these panels can be manufactured on large scale. The experimental printed solar panels are made by printing an advanced electronic ink onto clear laminated sheets as thin as a piece of paper. The solar ink uses semiconducting molecules in the ink to “catch” energy from the sun and transfer it through the cell to a battery.

As a result of being both lightweight and low-cost to produce, the technology would be beneficial for applications in developing countries or disaster relief locations. The printed solar panels are so light and flexible that they can be secured to a roof with Velcro – so they won’t blow away.  The printed solar panels costs less than R135 per square metre to produce.

The testing site has enabled final-phase demonstration and modifications of the system before it enters the consumer market. The results of the test will give researchers feedback on the lifespan of the material and evaluate the performance of the solar panel system.

Solar ink panels currently average about three per cent efficiency, which isn’t as much as its rival, the Tesla solar tile which produces twenty per cent. For the purpose of supplying developing countries, the application of this technology would be ideal.

Printed solar panels could be the future of energy production and with technology advancements always in the works we can expect improvements in alternative solar energy technology.

Image and video credit: University of Newcastle