In the future, the entire roof of your house could be a solar panel, and you could harness the power of the sun to charge your mobile phone while on a remote bushwalk, thanks to cheap, printable solar cells.
Work is underway to perfect the “printing” of a film-like layer of solar cells that can be applied cheaply to hard or flexible surfaces to generate electricity from sunlight.
“One of our major industrial supporters is Bluescope Steel and they want to be able to print or coat solar cells directly on to their roofing material, so when you’re putting up your roof you’ll be putting up a solar array,” says Dr David Jones from University of Melbourne’s Bio21 Institute.
“We’re now at a point where we can print these solar cells reliably, and we’re going to the next step of using bigger and faster printers and a more automated printing process.”
David is project coordinator for the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC), which has a mid-2013 deadline to hand over a prototype solar cell printer to its industry partners.
The VICOSC is receiving a $5 million collaborative science and innovation grant from the Victorian Government.
David says companies are in a global race to bring products with “integrated” solar generation capabilities to market and ultimately this would re-shape the economics of solar power.
“In the roll-out, you’re likely to see the first use of solar cells for temporary purposes: shade cloth for caravans and in tenting materials for example,” David says.
“You’ll be putting up your tent and powering up your holiday.”
Photo: In the future, your entire roof of your house could be tiled with printed solar cells like this one.
Credit: DJ Jones, University of Melbourne
Victorian Department of Business and Innovation, www.business.vic.gov.au/innovation