Have you ever imagined that new technology of solar panels would be like a newspaper? How cool would it be to handle and use it! Yes, new solar panel technology is beyond everything that you can think of. Super thin, cheap, recyclable, no carbon emissions, easy to carry, transparent and flexible are its major advantages. Welcome to the Printed Solar Cells revolution.
Solar panels and their innovative technologies
It is exciting to see how solar photovoltaic modules (also called solar panels) are developing and improving in efficiency. With this blog, I would like to share with you, the new, exciting, and innovative technology of the Photovoltaic modules, which are printed solar panels. But before this, let us analyse different existing panel technologies.
Short-Overview of existing panel technologies
Several decades of research, work, and development has led us to a broad range and diverse types of solar panels available on the market. To give you a vast overview, I will put all the information together and introduce you to new and fascinating technology. Solar thermal module for heating is another type of panel compared to Photovoltaic panel, so do not let yourself be confused between both these terms. However, we will entirely talk about Photovoltaic panels in this blog. Before you start reading, empty your mind, sit relax and take a deep inhale.
|Type of Panel||Efficiency||Pros.||Cons.|
|Monocrystalline Solar Panels (Mono-SI)||~20%||High efficiency rate; optimized for commercial use; high life-time value||Expensive|
|Polycrystalline Solar Panels (p-Si)||~15%||Lower price||Sensitive to hot temperatures; lower lifespan & slightly less space efficiency|
|Thin-Film: Amorphous Silicon Solar Panels (A-SI)||~7-10%||Low costs; easy to produce & flexible||shorter warranties & lifespan|
|Concentrated PV Cell (CVP)||~41%||Extremely high performance & efficiency rate||Solar tracker & cooling system needed (to reach high-efficiency rate)|
|Printed Solar||~10%||incredibly low-cost and printed at scale, extremely flexible, easy to install, durable, works off-grid and 100% recyclable, no mounting structure required.||rely heavily on plastic, short lifespan|
Printed Solar Cells – let us dive in !
How are printed solar cells made?
Printed Solar is made using sPrinted Solar is made using specialized semiconducting inks and printed using a conventional reel-to-reel printer. Now, printable solar cells are made by printing a specially developed ‘solar ink’ onto plastic film, like the way plastic banknotes are printed. Manufacturing printing solar panels using standard printing techniques; in fact, the machine that we use typically makes wine labels. Each solar cell consists of several individual layers printed on top of each other, which are then connected in series to form a bank of cells. These cells are then connected in parallel to form a solar module.
Whatever the method or the materials used, the solar principles remain the same:
Incoming photons free electrons and send them scattering through the solar cell’s material before being channelled into an electrical circuit. The efficiency of the solar cell depends both on how well the material captures light to set these electrons free, as well as how effortlessly the electrons travel through the material.
Researchers are developing processes for printing solar cells onto all manner of surfaces using various printing, dyeing, and spraying techniques. They can be printed straight onto paper-thin, flexible plastic, as well as onto steel, and can be made semi-transparent for building cladding and windows.
In the latest installation, each module is ten meters long and sandwiched between two layers of recyclable plastic. These printed solar modules could be installed onto any roof or structure using simple adhesive tape and connected to wires using simple press-studs.
Efficiency and costs
Mono-Crystalline is widely used worldwide nowadays. The capability of providing electricity is as low as USD 4 cents/kWh with printed solar has found a niche in the market. As a result, these modules cost less than $10 per square meter when manufactured at scale. This means it would take only 2-3 years to become cost-competitive with other technologies, even at efficiencies of only 2-3%.
Printed Solar Cells- the solution to bring clean energy to everyone?
This technology has enormous potential. Obviously, this technology is still at the trial stage, but the vision is a world in which every building in every city in every country has printed solar cells generating low-cost sustainable energy for everyone. This latest installation has brought the goal of solar roofs, walls, and windows a step closer.
Using a novel process involving moderate temperatures and no liquids, MIT energy initiative printed photovoltaic (PV) cells on tissue paper, printer paper, newsprint, textiles, and even plastic food wrap. They have made solar devices that are low-cost, lightweight, flexible, and durable features that make them ideal not only for integrating into consumer products but also for shipping to remote regions of the world where energy demand is growing rapidly and there is no power grid insight.
What do you think about this technology? Do you want to cover up your house wall fully or partially with printed solar? If so, then instead of covering the wall with colours, printed solar will electrify your entire house and will save you lots of money. Compared to other technologies, printed solar technology has made its own stand globally, economically, and environmentally friendly.
Looking forward to meeting you in my next blog about the energy system modeling of an eco-village in Germany.
References and Sources used in the blog post:
Kardinia Energy (Our technology): Source: https://www.kardiniaenergy.com/technology
MIT energy initiative (News on latest development): Source: https://energy.mit.edu/news/solar-cells-printed-on-paper/
New solar cells offer you the chance to print out solar panels and stick them on your roof by Paul Dastoor, The Conversation: Source: https://phys.org/news/2018-08-solar-cells-chance-panels-roof.html
Kardinia Energy (YouTube Video): Source: Kardinia Energy – Printed SolarSOLAR PANEL VS SOLAR THERMAL, Editorial Team, April 7, 2020: Source: https://easysolar.guide/solar-panel-vs-solar-thermal/