How useful are printed solar panels?

How useful are printed solar panels?

Reading time: 3 minute

An illusion or a revolution in the field of renewable energy?

A team of researchers from University of Newcastle (Australia) led by Prof. physicist Paul Dastoor, kept the front page of the newspapers at the end of 2018, when they mounted an area of ​​200 square meters of functional solar panels on the roof of a factory in the city (CHEP building).

Proponents of new technologies say that this can revolutionize the way solar panels are manufactured and distributed worldwide.

But, beyond all the popularity in the media, we must mention that printed panels are less efficient than silicone panels, they have a durability of only two years, and their production process is not as simple as it seems.

So, are the printed panels worth all the exposure they enjoy in the media? Could they turn renewable energy into an affordable option?

How is a solar panel printed?

Solar cells are made of a semiconductor material which can be positively or negatively charged to have more or fewer electrons and thus acquire a positive or negative conductivity.

Most semiconductors, as well as silicone, are crumbly (crumble, break easily), so the Newcastle team led by Paul Dastoor created semiconductor flexible polymer inks.

The first layer of semiconductor ink is printed on a transparent plastic sheet, after which other layers are printed on top of each other, until the polymers reach a thickness of about 200 microns. For reference, a human hair is about 50 microns thick.

"Then we produce a top layer of contact, which is done again using a technology known as sputter coating," says Professor Dastoor.

The panels for the CHEP building were finally printed on 10-meter rolls 640 meters of solar panels being developed and connected in series to cover an area of ​​200 square meters of panels.

On what support can the solar panels be printed?

The physical medium on which the sensitive polymers are printed is plastic, so it should be durable, so this type of solar panel can be printed directly on the wall, window or any other material.

Is a printed solar panel better than an ordinary one?

From our perspective, the answer is NO. Printed panels are less efficient at the moment, and according to Professor Dastoor they have a durability of only two or three years. But their promoters claim that they would be more advantageous in terms of costs, ease of production, and weight.

How much does the production of printed solar panels cost?

The 200-square-meter area of ​​Newcastle Australia was covered with panels during a single afternoon, the panels being fixed to the roof using double-sided tape. The cost of a semiconductor production plant, where silicone is refined for panels, reaches up to billions of dollars; the cost of equipment for printing solar panels is in the thousands.

As a comparison, the combined cost of printers from CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research), used for printed solar panels amounted to less than 500.000 dollars.

The Newscatle team estimates the cost of its modules at less than $ 10 per square meter. At this price, 200 square meters of panels would cost less than $ 2000.

Currently, solar panels have an efficiency of one-fifth of the efficiency of silicone panels. If their efficiency could be doubled, the team estimates that an area of ​​150 square meters could cover the energy needs of an average household.

Can printed solar panels be recycled?

Printed solar panels rely heavily on plastic and, given their short lifespan, they have the potential to add a large amount of plastic to our regular waste stream. Part of the Newscastle University of Australia project will try to recycle plastic at the end of the installation.

"This trial involves installing the panels for a period of six months; we install them, test their performance, and finally take them down and recycle them," said Professor Dastoor.

Ideally, they will be recycled so that they become panels again, but it is an untested process yet.


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  1. Grandma had a word: polenta from the grinder and fish from the fishing rod! To those who do not know what it means, I can explain.
    The grinder was a rudimentary mini-mill that you used to turn around at night to make a handful of corn, so you can't get tired of these two, the fishing rod and the grinder.
    To think that if you put solar panels you see yourself with enough light and heat, it means depending on the sunny days.
    Yes, you will tell me about batteries, converter, stuff, but what do you do if you catch three weeks of winter without sun?
    These are whims of globalist hashtags, the hope is also for classic generators, on fuels, on nuclear technology, on hydrotechnology, etc.
    Let's be serious, if the wind doesn't blow for three days, you'll be on the wind turbine!
    The batteries are discharged and you make the fire with wood, so that you have both heat and light!
    Until materials that withstand the temperatures generated by FUSION are discovered, we will stay on top of what we have.

    1. I live in the country and I heat myself with wood and yes, if I had a generous budget I would invest in photovoltaic and wind panels and in a guaranteed time the consumption of wood decreases.

      1. I forgot, I did not buy wood and I will not buy in my life, neither children nor grandchildren. Every year I plant, I buy land I plant and so on.

  2. Honestly, the efficiency of the solar cell has to increase more than 25% over how many years since the invention of the solar cell? What exactly are the specifications on these printed panels? Are they greater than 25% efficiency? The spectrum of light that gives us the most efficiency is I believe in the green spectrum of light?

    1. Well, not only that, I often see people complaining about the efficiency when even comparing it to other fuel sources... All the efficiency means, is how much of the solar radiation hitting the ground at that specific moment, is converted directly into electricity -with 100% being the absolute maximum, everything used.
      You have people comparing this value then to other systems… It's not even apples and oranges. How much solar radiation does it take to convert a tree into organic matter, to grow enough mass, to be converted by its own weight into, oil? Or even, how efficient is a plant, converting solar into creating biomass, to create biodiesel. They're not even comparing that conversion. Let's say something like, it's cloudy so you're only getting like 11% efficiency. Yeah? Compared to what?
      Then you have to consider factors like if you just compare one gallon of gasoline, and how efficient you are and extracting that energy, even that doesn't apply - because once you burn that gallon of gas, you no longer have that gallon of gas , but you still have that solar panel working at whatever efficiency rating that will continue doing so for its lifetime… It’s not done after producing x watthours in 1 hour. (Yet another rating)

      1. For my instance, I'm talking about the efficiency over the evolution of the solar cell itself. While you're talking of the efficiency over different ways to generate electrical power I presume? If we're talking about absolutes then I generally have to be accurate in my data otherwise I could very well have errors in my data. Since you're talking about how much solar radiation it takes to convert a tree into organic matter, to grow enough Mass, to be converted by its own weight into, oil? Please elaborate all those different pieces of information into an answer if you are knowledgeable about solar radiation to convert a tree into organic matter?
        A total of 173,000 terawatts (trillions of watts) of solar energy strikes the Earth continuously. That's more than 10,000 times the world's total energy use. And that energy is completely renewable - at least, for the lifetime of the sun.
        When absorption and scattering are taken into account, the total solar flux reaching the surface of the earth is estimated to be 1.08 × 108 GW and the total amount of energy reaching the surface of the earth each year is 3,400,000 EJ. This is between 7000 and 8000 times annual global primary energy consumption. I see your information regarding once you burn a gallon of gas, you no longer have the gallon of gas, but you still have solar panel working at whatever proficiency rating that will continue during so for its lifetime. We have to take inconsideration when we're burning a gallon of gas the fuel is converted over eventually hits the tailpipe as a mist, water vapor, and all other byproducts of burning that fossil fuel, so there's a lot of missing data in between the time we put that gallon of gas in the tank to what's left over after the gas is went through the engine it's efficiency is not exactly known to me, but I know after it leave the tailpipe there's water that leaves the tailpipe, smoke, and other chemical compounds.
        Let's stick, and focus upon the solar

        1. This would take about 1.6 hours to charge an electric car so it could go one mile - under ideal conditions. It goes down from there.

  3. They are approaching the arena of usefulness now, but will probably never replace rooftop or dedicated silicon solar. They are likely to find application on more protected portions of a building such as exterior walls and eves. A silicon crystal solar panel, in some sense, lasts forever. It will continue to produce power, though at a slightly efficient rate for 40-50, maybe 100 years? There are several examples of solar cells producing 50 +% of their rated power 40 years out of installation the world over and these are likely to become more common.

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