Australian Scientists Able to Print PV Cells at 10m a Minute

3rd Jun 2013

The Australian science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), has a new printer that can print photovoltaic cells at a rate of 10 metres per minute, equating to one cell every two seconds.

It is one of the largest PV printing machines in the world and due to its ability to print at normal room temperatures and conditions, the PV cells produced are much cheaper than silicon or thin films solar cells, which can only be manufactured in a vacuum, or at high temperatures.

Actually the printer itself is also cheap, being built with existing printing technologies, it only costs around $194,760, according to CSIRO.

CSIRO explained the progress that has been made with the construction and development of the printer to its current state. “In just three years they have gone from making cells the size of a fingernail to cells 10 cm square. Now with the new printer they have jumped to cells that are 30 cm wide.”

Scott Watkins, a materials scientist at CSIRO, said, “there are so many things we can do with cells this size. 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.”

David Jones, from the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC), said that “eventually we see these being laminated to windows that line skyscrapers. By printing directly to materials like steel, we’ll also be able to embed cells onto roofing materials.”

The only problem at the moment is that the PV cells printed are not very efficient, requiring a far larger area than silicon based, or thin film solar cells. The next step in the process is to tweak the ink formulas to try and develop a much more efficient product.

By. Joao Peixe