Printable solar cells for lightweight energy

Our thin, flexible solar cells could offer an affordable solution to meeting the needs of increasing energy demands around the world.

The Challenge

Harnessing the sun to meet rising energy needs

Solar energy is a huge source of clean, sustainable power – a fraction of the sun’s energy could power the world.

With global energy demands continuing to rise, a range of low-cost solar technologies will be crucial to meeting the energy needs of both the developed and developing world.

Our Response

Printable solar cells that are flexible and lightweight

We’re developing new materials and processes to enable the production of thin, flexible solar cells based on printable ‘solar inks’. These inks are deposited onto flexible plastic films using a range of processes including spray coating, reverse gravure, slot-die coating and screen printing.

We’re developing new printable solar cells that are flexible, light weight and are so thin that they can cover most surfaces.

We’ve also developed capabilities in both organic photovoltaics (OPV) and dye-sensitised solar cells (DSSC). These technologies differ in a number of ways from traditional, silicon-based solar cells, offering:

  • greater flexibility – being light weight and flexible, solar panels can be integrated into windows, window furnishings, rooftops and even consumer packaging
  • affordability – lower cost and light weight solar can provide for the energy needs for remote outback locations and developing communities.

This work has been carried out by the Victorian Organic Solar Cell (VICOSC) Consortium, a research collaboration between CSIRO, Monash University, the University of Melbourne, BlueScope Steel, Innovia Films, Innovia Security and Robert Bosch SEA. It has been supported by funding from the Victorian State Government and the Australian Government through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The Results

Pilot-scale production is now ready for expansion

By developing new organic materials and solar cell device architectures, we have achieved power conversion efficiencies of around 9 per cent on small-scale devices.

Our pilot-scale, roll-to-roll printing lines have successfully fabricated 10 × 10 centimetre flexible solar modules, and we have recently begun printing even larger solar modules up to A3 size.

Our rapidly expanding efforts on hybrid organic-inorganic solar inks are also resulting in significant advances in the performance of our large-area printed solar cells.

We are keen to focus our technology on specific applications, and can now produce pilot-scale quantities for incorporation into a wide range of prototypes.

The low barriers to entry mean this technology can provide new opportunities for Australian manufacturing, opening up new markets and new jobs.


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