The Skinny On Aussie Solar Printer: It’s Wide

Two years after they embarked on a solar-cell printing initiative, Australian researchers are showing off cells the size of A3 paper – that’s about 16.5 by 11.7 inches – spit out by a $200,000 machine.

The researchers in the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC) – a collaboration between CSIRO, the University of Melbourne, Monash University and industry partners – say their printer uses semiconducting inks to “print the cells straight onto paper-thin flexible plastic or steel.” They compared it to the sort of screen printing used to put images on T-shirts and say the machine can crank out 10 meters per minute, or about one cell every two seconds.

Researcher Scott Watkins with a printed solar cell (image via CSIRO)

Researcher Scott Watkins with a printed solar cell (image via CSIRO)

These cells produce between 10 and 50 watts of power per square meter (a typical crystalline solar cell might produce around 150 watts per square meter). Not a ton of power, but enough to be useful for some purposes, perhaps.

“There are so many things we can do with cells this size,” researcher Scott Watkins said in a statement. “We can set them into advertising signage, powering lights and other interactive elements. We can even embed them into laptop cases to provide backup power for the machine inside.”

solar printing

The new solar cell printer can print cells up to 30 cm wide (image via CSIRO)

But the researchers think they can go bigger. Remember, when we reported on this group in 2011, the cells they were making were tiny – fingernail sized.

“Eventually we see these being laminated to windows that line skyscrapers,” team leader David Jones said. “By printing directly to materials like steel, we’ll also be able to embed cells onto roofing materials.”

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

    • http://second-amendment.tripod.com/ daveca

      An ENGINEER with energy conservation background says “sheer stupidity”

      FIFTY WATS PER SQUARE METER?

      What on earth would I do with all the power? (thats sarcasm)

      Incident radiation is an average of 3Kw /m^2 per DAY in the US (NREL data)

      and thats distributed over TWO hours around noon.

      This is FIFTY? Talk about miserable efficiency.

      So at 10% system efficiency (panel losses, conversion and storage losses and 10 % is generous, 8 is more like it) youd need , for a TWO hour day where the energy input is anywhere near 3Kw incident, SIXTY SQUARE METERS to run an air conditioner system

      Thats 650 square feet TIMES 10 for efficiency losses, thats 6500 square feet of panels

      Absolute stupidity. And i can design the entire system from the panels down to the conversion and storage.

      Notice that con artists like this NEVER discuss the total system or the efficiency or output power or cost, mainly because they know nothing about it, or dont want to admit it doesnt work

      • http://second-amendment.tripod.com/ daveca

        False statement:

        “(a typical crystalline solar cell might produce around 150 watts per square meter).”

        A typical panel used for power gen is 240. Sanyo Gaia series

        Notice the biased hack writing this drivel cant cite a source. I can

        Buy the cheap Chinese panels from Harbor Freight, yes, youll get miserable output like that.

        That was falsely and deliberately mis-stated to make this supposed “new” technology look competitive. Basically, lying

        • Pete Danko

          Hi Dave,

          Do you know the dimensions of the Sanyo Gaia panel? If you could send me a link to the information, I’d be much appreciative (I looked around but couldn’t find it). The thing is, solar pv panels are almost always larger than a square meter. For instance, SolarWorld sells a 255W panel that’s 1.6 square meters – 1.675m by 0.951m. So per square meter, its output is 159 watts. And Kyocera says right on their website, “With typical crystalline solar cell efficiencies around 14-16%, that means we can expect to generate about 140-160W per square meter of solar cells placed in full sun.” So while there is of course a lot of variation, I do think the 150 watt per square meter rule of thumb is a pretty good one. The funny thing, I mentioned it not to make this new technology appear competitive, but to make the point that the new technology produces at a relatively tiny rate compared to typical solar PV.

          Pete

      • Guest

        The idea is that this technology might be useful where standard solar PV isn’t feasible, not as a replacement.