Feeds

Scientists print out solar cells using inkjet tech

Sheet hot

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

While 3D printers spew out house keys, ladies' swimwear and even compete with Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen department, the lowly inkjet has effectively been shoved aside. There's still some life in the old boy yet, though, after scientists used one to print solar cells.

Boffins from Oregon State University (OSU) claim to have put together the world's first 'CIGS' solar device with inkjet printing.

CIGS, which stands for the copper, indium, gallium and selenium found within, is a compound also known as 'chalcopyrite' and is apparently perfectly suited for thin-film solar cells.

Using inkjet technology, the team squeezed out CIGS-based solar cells able to convert light into power with an efficiency of five per cent efficiency. That's too little to replace today's solar panels, but the scientists reckon their technique has the potential to reach an efficiency of 12 per cent. This would put it in the frame for commercially viable solar cells.

Solar Cell

Solar cell up close

Apparently, a layer of chalcopyrite just one to two microns thick can capture the same energy as a 50 micron layer made from silicon. The inkjet technique reduces raw material waste by a staggering 90 per cent.

OSU professor Chih-hung Chang highlights the dramatic reduction in wasted resource,

"Some of the materials we want to work with for the most advanced solar cells, such as indium, are relatively expensive," he said. "If that's what you're using you can't really afford to waste it, and the inkjet approach almost eliminates the waste."

As it stands, we're unlikely to see solar ink cartridges appear at our local Rymans, but the potential is huge and if costs can be reduced enough and the process tweaked properly, scientists say it could be used to build solar panels directly into roofing materials.

The idea of printing sun-soaker cells is nothing new. 'Power Plastic' manufacturers Konarka Technologies produced solar panels in 2008 using inkjet techniques. They weren't quite the same, though. ®

Website security in corporate America

More from The Register

next story
Man buys iPHONE 6 and DROPS IT to SMASH on PURPOSE
Yarrrgh! 'Tis Antipodean insanity, ye crazy swab
Oi, Tim Cook. Apple Watch. I DARE you to tell me, IN PERSON, that it's secure
State attorney demands Apple CEO bows the knee to him
4K-ing excellent TV is on its way ... in its own sweet time, natch
For decades Hollywood actually binned its 4K files. Doh!
Your chance to WIN the WORLD'S ONLY HANDHELD ZX SPECTRUM
Reg staff not allowed to enter, god dammit
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Monitors monitor's monitoring finds touch screens have 0.4% market share
Not four. Point four. Count yer booty again, Microsoft
DARPA-backed jetpack prototype built to make soldiers run faster
4 Minute Mile project hatched to speed up tired troops
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.