Monash University researchers in Australia have developed a solar cell, which is thin, flexible and can be mass produced using the same technology used to print polymer banknotes.
The first of the trial polymer solar cells has rolled off the presses at the Melbourne-based plant of Securency International – the company responsible for printing Australian polymer banknotes and currency for 26 countries around the world.
Monash researchers Dr Udo Bach and Prof Yi-Bing Cheng are part of the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium – a team of scientists and industry partners working in collaboration to develop a polymer solar cell that can be printed cheaply and efficiently.
Bach said: ‘The film-like solar cells are fabricated on a polymer substrate and are almost as thin as a sheet of paper. The ultimate goal of our work is to develop this alternative solar cell technology to a point where it can compete with conventional photovoltaic technologies already established on the market.’
The printable cells offer a number of advantages over traditional solar panel technology. They are lightweight and easily transportable, making them attractive to a domestic market and also flexible like a banknote.
Being partially transparent, they can be installed almost anywhere, including roofs of homes and cars, windows or glass panels. The cells also float, allowing them to cover pools or dams, reducing evaporation while also generating energy.
The three-year $12m (£9m) Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium solar cell project is 50 per cent funded by the Victorian government through an Energy Technology Innovation Strategy Sustainable Energy Research and Development grant.