April 3, 2008 Using FUJIFILM’s cartridge-based Dimatix Materials Printer (DMP), Konarka Technologies has demonstrated the world's-first fabrication of highly efficient solar cells using of inkjet printing technology.
Inkjet technology operates by propelling variably-sized droplets of liquid or molten material onto almost any medium. Inkjets are the most common type of computer printer for the general consumer; however the technology has wider applications in the industrial arena. Inkjet printers are also used in the production of many microscopic items and to form conductive traces for circuits, color filters in LCD and plasma displays and now - photovoltaic solar cells.
The DMP used for the demonstration is a turnkey, bench-top materials deposition system that uses FUJIFILM’s inkjet technology and Shaped Piezo Silicon MEMS fabrication processes in depositing picoliter-sized droplets of functional fluids on all types of surfaces. By employing single-use cartridges that researchers can fill with their own fluid materials, the DMP system minimizes waste of expensive fluid materials, thereby eliminating the cost and complexity associated with traditional product development and prototyping. The DMP is suitable for prototyping and low-volume manufacturing, and the technology is scalable from research and development to production.
The results of the demonstration were published in the journal Advanced Materials (Volume 19, Issue 22, Pages 3973-3978), highlighting the use of the technology as a fabrication tool for the controlled deposition of photovoltaic material.
Konarka (which has also developed and is commercializing Power Plastic, a material that converts light to energy) says the demonstration confirms that organic solar cells can be processed with printing technologies with little or no loss compared to “clean room” semiconductor technologies such as spin coating - a process used to apply uniform thin film solar cells to flat base materials. The inkjet technology also had the advantage of being compatible with various base materials and does not require additional patterning.
While the demonstration was the "first-known" according to the Konarka's release, the attractive notion of printable solar cells is not entirely new. Last year researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology announced the development of an inexpensive solar cell, using a carbon nanotubes complex that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets, and could one day lead to the creation of solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers.