When most people think of solar cells they picture the rigid glass panels that dot rooftops around the world. But the solar cells of the future will be much more adaptable, with researchers already succeeding in creating highly absorbing flexible solar cells that can be printed on plastic. Now researchers at MIT have gone one step further with the development of the first solar cell printed on paper.
The MIT researchers used carbon-based dyes to “print” the cells, which are about 1.5 to 2 percent efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. That falls well short of the more than 40 percent efficiency record for a multi-junction solar cell, or even the recent 19 percent efficiency record for silicon ink-based solar cells. But Vladimir Bulovic, director of the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Research Center, told CNET any material could be used to print onto the paper solar cells if it was deposited at room temperature.
It will still be some time before solar cells can be installed with a staple gun, however, as the paper variety are still in the research phase and are years from being commercialized.
The first two years of the Eni-MIT alliance has also seen other significant breakthroughs including:
The alliance between Eni and MIT has a duration of five years and involves a financial commitment from Eni for US$50 million in total, equally distributed between the Solar Frontiers program and the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) – so we should be able to look forward to even more breakthroughs in the coming years.
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