#1159 Print-and-plug solar panels coming soon

Dr. Scott Watkins shows what a printed solar cell looks like; photo courtesy of CSIRO

Dr. Scott Watkins shows what a printed solar cell looks like; photo courtesy of CSIRO

While governments and energy companies have dragged their feet on alternative forms of energy, others have quietly gone about developing solutions. A team of Australian scientists have come up with printable solar panels. The flexible sheets can power our devices, and they can power our skyscrapers.

The researchers are part of the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium, made up of scientists from CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) and Melbourne and Monash universities. Industry partners have come on board as well. Their 7-year effort to devise an affordable solar cell is nearing the stage when it can become commercially viable.

Semi-conducting inks print on flexible plastic or steel. Hook them to a battery, and provide low-cost power. But the team has taken the vision even farther. In future they expect to be able to apply solar-cell coatings to buildings, windows and roofs.

The potential for reducing our dependency on environmentally destructive energy resources is exciting. Human ingenuity has put us at a danger point in terms of our planet’s ability to recover from our creative endeavours. Initiatives like this have the potential for halting and even reversing some of our impact.

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