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MIT Unveils First Solar Cells Printed On Paper

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the let's-give-them-some-post-unveiing-privacy dept.

Power 125

lucidkoan writes "MIT researchers recently unveiled the world's first thin-film solar cell printed on a sheet of paper. The panel was created using a process similar to that of an inkjet printer, producing semiconductor-coated paper imbued with carbon-based dyes that give the cells an efficiency of 1.5 to 2 percent. That's not incredibly efficient, but the convenience factor makes up for it. And in the future, researchers hope that the same process used in the paper solar cells could be used to print cells on metal foil or even plastic. If they're able to gear efficiencies up to scale, the development could revolutionize the production and installation of solar panels."

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125 comments

Lots of "ifs" (4, Insightful)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102316)

It would be great if this turns into a workable process but it seems like someone publishes a similar article like every week and only rarely does it amount to anything.

Just wait... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32102450)

Wait until gypsies break into the lab in the middle of the night and steal equipment. Gypsies are typically like malignant cancer and will break anything that they cannot steal thus creating a "death" of the host (which would be MIT/MIT research). I am in perfect concordance with many others that MIT needs to safeguard its laboratories from these animals lest they lose much valuable data and irreplaceable equipment. For more info, try this search query [google.com].
 
-Shieldw0lf

MOD PARENT UP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32102840)

is this guy joking?

Re:Lots of "ifs" (1)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102486)

I can understand the project team wanting to release some information to the press to garner support and perhaps additional funding, but much like the Edison quote, they may have only found a way that doesn't work, or at least not very well. They might devise several hundred other methods or processes for printing solar cells on paper before they manage to figure out how to produce efficient cells in a cost-effective manner. Having some initial success and publishing it in order to secure additional funding can go along way towards helping get through all of those other ways that don't work so that they can find the one that will.

Re:Lots of "ifs" (4, Insightful)

anza (900224) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102666)

99% of science isn't big jumps and revolutionary new ideas. It's incremental gains and slow but (usually) steady progress. Proof of concept of printing solar cells on paper is a pretty substantial deal, even if it isn't usable in the market yet.

Re:Lots of "ifs" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32102936)

1. Christ, more "inhabitant" flogging from timothy
PLEASE, give us a inhabitant section so we can filter out all this gee-whiz-techno-unicorn bullshit, some of us prefer our futurism to be brutally dystopian
2. Maybe this will save the newpaper business

Re:Lots of "ifs" (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#32104430)

And that is manifest by the fact that solar power has dropped in price by about 1/3 [lbl.gov] (page 10) (pdf warning) in the decade from 1998 to 2008. So the idea that solar is "always coming and never arrives" is not true. It's getting more affordable all the time and the installed base is growing very rapidly (page 8).

Now if we can just eliminate the other 2/3 of the price solar energy will be free :)

During that same period, oil prices (also in inflation-adjusted dollars) went up by 500% [seekingalpha.com]. (Doubtless they have retreated during the recession; it's hilarious how quickly we all stop worrying about it as soon as prices fall at the pump. In a year gas will be sky-high again).

Tell you what they should do (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102870)

Grow the trees to make the paper that you'd use for these cells then... Don't.

Just burn them.

Solar powered electricity.

Look up coppicing.

 

Re:Tell you what they should do (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 3 years ago | (#32104468)

Grow the trees to make the paper that you'd use for these cells then... Don't.

Look up coppicing.

Or, do both. You can only burn wood to create energy once, but if that wood is the substrate for a solar panel you've vastly increased the solar energy we can harvest over burning. The tree is one time producer (with a long lead time), but even inefficient solar can catch up over time.

Coppicing regrows harvestable trees in about 7 years, but one tree's worth of a 1% efficient solar panel (in the right sunlight) can produce more energy over those 7 years that simply burning the wood. Of course, the panel requires additional raw materials, but I expect we'd still end up energy positive.

Re:Tell you what they should do (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#32104488)

I don't think that idea is crazy, except there are other forms of biofuel that accomplish the same thing while releasing waste carbon (e.g. cell bodies) into a pool or the ground, rather than the air. So don't buy too much stock in wood-burning engines [internationalsteam.co.uk] just yet :)

Re:Lots of "ifs" (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103026)

Yeah, it'd be nice to get a slashdot article about groundbreaking new solar tech being sold rather then articles selling groundbreaking new solar tech.

Still though, congrats to solar cell researchers.

Good (3, Insightful)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102336)

Time is running out for the House of Saud.

Once solar becomes ubiquitous they'll need to swap their imported cars for camels. And we won't have to worry about spoiled idiots funding Jihad as a hobby.

Re:Good (2, Informative)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102582)

Hey kids, math and facts can be fun! Try them! Saudi Arabia has about 260 billion barrels of oil in proven reserves (which means they likely have more they haven't found yet). They produce about 10 million barrels of oil per day. That means their oil lifespan is about 70 years, just on what we know they have right now. And let's no forget that as they've increased production over the years, the lifespan keep getting longer, not shorter, due to increased amounts of oil being found. So...how is time running out for them again?

I'm not a fan of oil, and I'd rather see us go to more sustainable solutions and all that, but let's not gloss over the glaring facts just because we don't like them.

Re:Good (1, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102674)

Then they must be embargoed until they accept that "DNA is God and Dawkins is her prophet".

Re:Good (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32103134)

I think you mean TNA.

Re:Good (2, Insightful)

Hylandr (813770) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102772)

Well if the world starts running on Solar energy, who is going to fuel demand for Saudi oil? ( Pardon the pun. )

However, the Sauds may choose to BUY that tech, bury it somewhere and go on about their business.

- Dan .

Re:Good (0, Troll)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103042)

That's a big if. Oil is cheap and plentiful, and not likely to be replaced in third world countries or in good ol' fashioned American pickup trucks for that matter. I don't see time "running out" any time soon for oil producing countries any time soon.

Re:Good (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32103100)

Well if the world starts running on Solar energy, who is going to fuel demand for Saudi oil? ( Pardon the pun. ).

The plastics industry, perhaps?

Re:Good (3, Informative)

TrumpetPower! (190615) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102958)

oodaloop wrote:

Saudi Arabia has about 260 billion barrels of oil in proven reserves (which means they likely have more they haven't found yet). They produce about 10 million barrels of oil per day. That means their oil lifespan is about 70 years, just on what we know they have right now.

Ever heard of this rather obscure mathematical property known as exponential growth [youtube.com]?

Cheers,

b&

But 3% isn't exponential growth (2, Funny)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103030)

no it isn't

yes it is

no it isn't.

No no No No NO NO NO! (to Bohemian Rhapsody in the background)

I like irony.

 

Re:Good (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 3 years ago | (#32104682)

Also, if other sources of energy get cheap enough, they're going to have to drop the price of oil a bit. Plus it's dirty, so we'll be taxing it more than solar/wind/wave (even nuclear). And it's going to cost more to extract/process the less there is.

Re:Good (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 3 years ago | (#32107556)

Ever heard of the rather obscure physical situation known as confined space?
Resources are not unlimited. Hence the growth curve will flatten out with the limit being the maximum that earth can sustain. (Excess life will die because of a lack of resources. Excess resources will be used up by growing life.)

Yes, this is also true for information and innovation, and hence the “singularity” will never happen.

Re:Good (1)

Eclipse-now (987359) | more than 3 years ago | (#32107978)

Absolutely, and not only that:-
* WESTERN oil geologist were in Saudi Arabia surveying oil for decades prior to being kicked out
* Saudi Arabia's 'discoveries' seem to always correlate exactly to their annual production
* Resulting in SA having the same reserves they had decades ago, which is highly unlikely given how much they produce daily
* AND there's the OPEC production rules limiting daily production as a ratio of how much reserves you have. So in the 1980's, when this rule came in, most OPEC countries very suspiciously just happened to 'discover' enough oil to double their reserves overnight. ;-)

I'm with former Fusion reactor designer Robert Hirsch, when he says:

ROBERT HIRSCH, CONSULTANT US DEPT OF ENERGY: Basically, what they're asking us to do is to trust them. And, frankly, on something that's the lifeblood of our civilisation and the way we live, to trust somebody who won't allow any audits is extremely risky. I personally don't believe the numbers that are out there.

http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2006/s1683060.htm [abc.net.au]

Oh, and from the same 4 Corners webpage, we learn that SA's former head of exploration says there is a problem as well.

SADAD AL-HUSSEINI, FORMER DIRECTOR SAUDI ARAMCO: The easy oil has already been produced. The - the remaining reserves, as significant and substantial as they are, are going to be more expensive and gradually more demanding to produce. Therefore the future capacity is slower to come on stream than what it has been the traditional past.
JONATHAN HOLMES: Sadad Al-Husseini agrees with Robert Hirsch that the time for consuming nations to start worrying is now.
SADAD AL-HUSSEINI, FORMER DIRECTOR SAUDI ARAMCO: Well, I think in many of the major consuming countries, the leadership has been asleep on the watch. Everybody in the industry realises that oil and gas are the backbone of global economies. Somehow, I guess politicians felt that this was not going to be an issue on their watch, that it was too far into the future, and therefore didn't pay attention to it.

Saudi Arabia does not allow us to audit them, is promoting 'paper barrels', and yet the Western world trust in them. It will be our undoing. I give us 5 years before rationing starts.

I suggest you look up "Hubbert peak" (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102962)

Hey kids, math and facts can be fun! Try them!

You might want to try them yourself. Y'know, understand what the numbers mean. That's pretty much all.

"Reserve" numbers are largely irrelevant and the word "proven" should never be used in connection with Saudi.

How fast can you pump it, and how much energy does it take?

 

Re:I suggest you look up "Hubbert peak" (2, Interesting)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103092)

Yeah, it's been well-documented that BP and other oil companies in Saudi Arabia in particular have been under-reporting oil reserves for 40 years or more to keep oil prices down. They likely have WAY more oil than that. Thanks for bringing that up. That's a good point.

Re:I suggest you look up "Hubbert peak" (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32103262)

under-reporting oil reserves for 40 years or more to keep oil prices down.

Someone's looking at their supply-demand curve sideways :)

Re:I suggest you look up "Hubbert peak" (4, Interesting)

hamburger lady (218108) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103304)

actually it's been reported that SA has been highballing the estimates for decades. which makes sense, as OPEC quotas are based on stated reserves - the more you claim to have in reserves the more you can pump and sell and the more money you make.

it's in every OPEC country's best interest to overstate their reserves. and of course, nobody outside of aramco is allowed to actually independently verify those numbers.

Re:I suggest you look up "Hubbert peak" (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 3 years ago | (#32107844)

... The more you claim to have in reserves the more you can pump and sell and the more money you make.

it's in every OPEC country's best interest to overstate their reserves. and of course, nobody outside of aramco is allowed to actually independently verify those numbers.

Only in their SHORT term interest. Presuming the resource will get sucked into actual shortage before technology replaces it the price will eventually skyrocket. At that point having a bunch left could bring in enough to pay for the lost opportunity cost of not having the money earlier.

I suggest you look up "supply and demand" (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103564)

lol.

So how does under reporting reserves keep the price down?

Is that the '"This is all we got guv" nudge nudge wink wink' school of economics?

 

Re:I suggest you look up "supply and demand" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32105468)

Do not question the loop.
He is a master of middle eastern intelligence.
He knows all the classified information, all of it!

Re:Good (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103376)

Hey kids, economics and facts can be fun! Try them! The price of something is heavily dependent on supply and demand. If the demand for oil goes down, say because solar power is ubiquitous as the grandparent poster theorized, but the supply remains the same, then the price will go down. If solar becomes cheap enough (definitely a big "if") then the price of pumping and shipping oil over from Saudi Arabia will be higher than just producing the energy locally. 260 billion barrels of oil at nothing per barrel is... let me do the math here. Nothing and nothing, carry the nothing... So how would time not be running out for them under that scenario?

I'm not a big fan of the theory that solar will actually get _that_ cheap, but let's not gloss over the glaring facts of what would happen if it did.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32103696)

Except that the age of oil doesn't end when we run out of it. It ends when we can't pull it out of the ground fast enough to meet consumption. That's probably not any more than 25-45 years away. Sure there'll still be plenty of oil in the ground, enough to last for much longer than that. However, we can't just pull oil out of the ground as fast as you want. And sure, we'll find more oil fields that will let us pull up more oil, but that wont cover the fact that we've found the majority of the world's oil already and that production is going to fall.

Saudi Arabia may be able to produce 10 million barrels of oil per day now, but that rate won't last forever.

Re:Good (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103716)

Why is it that no one ever thinks about the materials that will be needed to switch to solar? Solar panels don't work so well at night and require some sort of batteries. Currently lithium batteries appear to be the wave of the future. Do you think that the lithium for the batteries can be grown on trees? Right now the demand for lithium is fairly low compared to what it will be if the world goes solar. Since Bolivia currently has half of the worlds lithium, who do you think will become the next Saudi in the great solar revolution?

What about EOL panel disposal? Or the toxic byproducts of solar panel production?

Please don't get me wrong, I think solar power is one of several options that need to be explored and used to stop the burning of fossil fuels, however I wish people would stop treating it like a magic cure for our energy needs. It has it's own set of problems as well.

Re:Good (1)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 3 years ago | (#32104142)

Why is it that no one ever thinks about the materials that will be needed to switch to solar? Solar panels don't work so well at night and require some sort of batteries. Currently lithium batteries appear to be the wave of the future. Do you think that the lithium for the batteries can be grown on trees? Right now the demand for lithium is fairly low compared to what it will be if the world goes solar. Since Bolivia currently has half of the worlds lithium, who do you think will become the next Saudi in the great solar revolution?

For things like grid-wide power storage, the wave of the future is pumped-storage hydroelectricty [wikipedia.org]. No, it's not as sexy as huge banks of lithium batteries, but it's a proven technology that nobody can hold a monopoly on. All you need to set it up is a hill, a pump-generator, and a few million cubic meters of water.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32106090)

Thermal is also a promising storage form, one that's ideal for CSP setups. I read somewhere that it's about twenty times as cost-effective as batteries, and requires little if anything in the way of exotic materials. All you need is rock and mineral oil.

Re:Good (1)

liquiddark (719647) | more than 3 years ago | (#32104226)

Time is running out because either peak supply or peak demand means terrible things for the market. And by several metrics, peak supply, at least, is not that far away.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32104390)

Show me proof. Show me external reservoir audits that put their number beyond 80bbl please.

Oh right, you can't because they don't exist. Thanks for playing.

Re:Good (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 3 years ago | (#32106484)

International politics, game theory, and good old fashion lying is fun too. Those numbers of "260 billion barrels" are the numbers reported by Saudi Arabia, without any independent auditing. From wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_reserves [wikipedia.org]

The case of Saudi Arabia is also striking, with proven reserves estimated at between 260 and 264 billion barrels (4.20×1010 m3) in the past 18 years, a variation of less than 2%[18] while extracting approximately 60 billion barrels (9.5×109 m3) during this period.

How much do you believe the country with little oversight and an incentive to keep the world from pursuing other energy sources?

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32102940)

Yeah, when the world goes solar powered it's not gonna help you much if you have vast, unused expanses of sand with no cloud cover for 99% of the year.

Re:Good (2, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102964)

Oil is valuable for fertilizer, medicine, plastics, and many other purposes.

Have 260 billion gallons of it is valuable regardless of where it ends up.

Many alternative fuels seem to make sense at $90/bbl so they don't make sense right now- and they hold the price of oil down...

Which makes oil use continue.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32103298)

Correct, that is why Wyland-Yutani operated ships like the Nostromo.

Re:Good (1)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 3 years ago | (#32105006)

Lots of things that oil is used for today could be done by other methods only marginally more expensive (power, car fuel). However, lots of things that oil does can't be easily replaced, such as aromatic hydrocarbon feedstocks, or most plastics precursors. Now I know oil won't stop, it'll just make a lot of things a lot more expensive that have absolutely nothing to do with what the public thinks of as oil-derived.

To me, using oil for cars is like heating your home by burning toilet paper. When you've run out, you're going to regret it, and there are plenty of other things you can use instead.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32103666)

Is this because solar airplanes are right around the corner? Or how about a solar based petro chemicals industry? Today, oil is almost exclusively used as a liquid fuel or input, it is rarely converted to electricity (except by the Saudis themselves), so solar generated electricity is actually a poor substitute. This is actually a bigger threat to coal, nuclear, and gas.

Re:Good (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 3 years ago | (#32105930)

Is this because solar airplanes are right around the corner?

Yes, actually

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algae_fuel#Jet_fuel [wikipedia.org]

In February 2010, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced that the U.S. military was about to begin large-scale production oil from algal ponds into jet fuel. After extraction at a cost of $2 per gallon, the oil will be refined at less than $3 a gallon. A larger-scale refining operation, producing 50 million gallons a year, is expected to go into production in 2011, with the possibility of lower per gallon costs so that algae-based fuel would be competitive with fossil fuels. The projects, run by the companies SAIC and General Atomics, are expected to produce 1,000 gallons of oil per acre per year from algal ponds

Or how about a solar based petro chemicals industry? Today, oil is almost exclusively used as a liquid fuel or input, it is rarely converted to electricity (except by the Saudis themselves), so solar generated electricity is actually a poor substitute. This is actually a bigger threat to coal, nuclear, and gas.

From the Algae Fuel article.

The United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (40,000 km^2).[8] This is less than 1/7 the area of corn harvested in the United States in 2000

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32105340)

I believe it was Prince Saud himself who said:
The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones.
The Bronze Age did not end because we ran out of bronze
The Iron Age did not end because we ran out of iron.
The Oil Age will not end because we will run out of oil, but (as in the cases of the other ages) because something better comes along.

Perhaps this is it...

Re:Good (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 3 years ago | (#32106174)

I think the Oil Age happened because oil was incredibly cheap and convenient. My guess is that won't be the case in future. In fact oil could get a lot cheaper and still alternatives will take over.

I read somewhere that Saudi policy was to keep the price of oil below $30 per barrel to try to prevent this. Now - even during a very serious recession - that's not possible

http://www.wtrg.com/prices.htm [wtrg.com]

Mostly because China, India and so on are still growing and they have a huge need for oil. Plus there are worries about CO2, or that supplies may be interrupted in future and so on. Most countries are putting serious money into feed in tariffs for wind and solar and I suspect for algae biodiesel if it proves practical. More nuclear power plants are being built. Canadian oil shales are now economically viable.

All these things together means that the world economy is adapting to become less dependent on Saudi oil, just like it did during the 1973 oil crisis.

You mean like this? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32102346)

Re:You mean like this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32102960)

yea no doubt. Nanosolar already has multiple factories producing foil based thin cells in a printing press style. They even have appropriate average efficiencies, and are doing it at an affordable price point. The first couple of years of production has already been purchased by major solar installations.

Too bad (4, Funny)

sophomoric (1715780) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102476)

Too bad most of the paper I use is down where the sun don't shine.

Re:Too bad (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102848)

But these days you can install a burner there instead. Just insulate it properly from your posterior so you won't get too heated.

Re:Too bad (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32102900)

Too bad most of the paper I use is down where the sun don't shine.

You still use paper? How primitive.

I use three sea shells.

Re:Too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32103438)

And that poor girl has been trying to sell them by the sea shore all day...

Re:Too bad (1)

jewelises (739285) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103444)

Too bad most of the paper I use is down where the sun don't shine.

I hope you are referring to your mother's basement.

Not the first, not by a long shot (4, Informative)

ArcRiley (737114) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102574)

This is not the first. A company in New Hampshire has been printing, with a 4-ink inkjet process, solar cells for years now. A quick patent search shows dozens of other groups with their own solar-from-inkjet techniques.

Sounds like the MIT guys failed to do their research.

Re:Not the first, not by a long shot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32102634)

Yes, but this press release is from the mighty MIT. That makes it instantly Slashdot worthy :)

Re:Not the first, not by a long shot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32102812)

I came here to say the same thing. I saw technology like this a few years ago from a company called Plextronics spun off from Carnegie Mellon.

Re:Not the first, not by a long shot (3, Informative)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 3 years ago | (#32104656)

I think all of the other companies doing solar-with-inkjet have been printing on plastic or metal substrates. MIT is printing on a paper (and thus cheap, flexible, and renewable) substrate.

The printing isn't the important part, but what it is being printed upon.

Re:Not the first, not by a long shot (1)

Manchot (847225) | more than 3 years ago | (#32106944)

Printing on paper is not the same as printing on plastic. Look at both under a microscope: paper looks like a pillowy fibrous material, while plastic still looks flat.

The best part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32102594)

is lighting it on fire.

Resistance (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102612)

The real problem with less efficient electricity generation is that is it is much more expensive to scale even if you have the space. The lower voltages and greater resistance distances add up to much less total energy generation. 1.5% at the panel might only be .05% at the consumption point.

Re:Resistance (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102866)

Uhm, what about some tiny DC/DC converters right inside the panels?

Re:Resistance (1)

will.perdikakis (1074743) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103656)

Because in order to obey the conservation of energy laws, energy in >= energy out of that DC/DC converter.

Total (Vin * Iin) = Total ( Vout * Iout) If you increase the output voltage, the output current drops proportionally. Furthermore, to increase output voltage while keeping the output current similar, you need more input current.

Since photovoltaic are already low current, there is not much head room to increase output voltage.

Re:Resistance (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 3 years ago | (#32104804)

Because in order to obey the conservation of energy laws, energy in >= energy out of that DC/DC converter.

But a decent DC/DC converter is 85-95% efficient. If the alternatives are to lose 50% of the power in resistance or 15% in resistance and converter, the choice is obvious.

Total (Vin * Iin) = Total ( Vout * Iout) If you increase the output voltage, the output current drops proportionally. Furthermore, to increase output voltage while keeping the output current similar, you need more input current. Since photovoltaic are already low current, there is not much head room to increase output voltage.

Not sure what you're talking about. We only care about the power on the output, rather than the current itself. The whole point is to reduce the current, since that is how we minimize resistive losses (power lost in the wire = I^2 * R_wire). Considering the output will do another DC/DC or DC/AC conversion, the current is negligible as long as it is sufficient to operate the DC/DC converters. That's left as an exercise to the engineers, and I'm sure it's easily handled.

How long do they last? (3, Insightful)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102618)

A common problem with many alternative solar cell technologies have been that they have not been durable or degraded on UV exposure.

Being able to produce cheaper solar cells will not gain you much in $/kWh terms if the cells degrade correspondingly quicker than silicon based ones.

Basically with photo-voltaics there seems to be: { Cheap, Efficient , Durable } , Pick 2.

I would not consider myself a nay-sayer. Indeed I think solar is a great energy source where sun is plentiful, but at the moment I just don't think photo-voltaics can even hold a candle to thermal designs. Like modern solar troughs.

Re:How long do they last? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#32104190)

I would not consider myself a nay-sayer. Indeed I think solar is a great energy source where sun is plentiful, but at the moment I just don't think photo-voltaics can even hold a candle to thermal designs. Like modern solar troughs.

In Suburbia, PV is going to win out over solar concentrators because of homeowners' associations.

For those people, there's a point where cheap + efficient will be a money saver.
The only question is how soon can we achieve the "cheap" part of the equation without government subsidies.

Re:How long do they last? (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 3 years ago | (#32104728)

That's why you do not join the association when you buy property, and you give the association members the finger as you put up your flagpole, your HDTV antenna or satellite dish, paint your house a different shade of yellow than the association-approved shade, and put up solar collectors and also put in a woodburning stove. :)

Re:How long do they last? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32105116)

No problem, they'll send you bills and if you don't pay they'll put a lien on your house. Which is why you don't buy property with an HOA. Joining isn't an option when there is a dead restriction.

Re:How long do they last? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32104582)

I'm over all of these /. stories on how such-and-such technology is revolutionizing solar, and solar cells are going to cost 10 cents a pound in just 5 years or something like that. They never seem to turn into anything. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see solar succeed, but after roughly 500 different stories on how some university researcher is going to make solar cells so cheap that they're almost free, a solar set up is still more money than I'm willing to spend. I'm just not going to get too excited until this actually turns into something.

Really convenient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32102664)

Because when you walk outside it's really handy to carry around a piece of paper to charge your watch battery, or perhaps trickle charge your mobile phone over a couple of days. You just need to hold it in such a way that its flapping in the wind generally points it towards the sun - although you could affix it to a plate to make it not flap, but wait, then you could rather have a real solar cell plate, and the convenience of this is that it should be just like carrying a printout into the wind. Nevermind that you need a new one when it rains - you can just go to the nearest semiconductor-and-carbon-dye printer and print a new page using completely ordinary paper that does not need to be specially crafted or stored.

More seriously, nonfossil energy research is the only possible salvation of mankind, but I wish we could be spared the hype when it's clearly just conceptual and technically exploratory research. "The convenience factor makes up for it" is the irony of the century.

Nonfossil energy (3, Insightful)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102902)

Biomass, big city sewage/animal waste in the country, and the nineteenth century's gift to the twenty first, the Stirling engine.
You could power city's and farms on the methane given off by crap.

Re:Nonfossil energy (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103278)

big city sewage

Sure does add a new definition to "trickle charging" a battery, doesn't it?

Fail. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32102690)

I fail to see how this is progress. Standard printer ink is far more expensive (per pound) than currently available solar panels. Are we to expect solar panel ink to be much cheaper?

Makes up for it? (1)

Grizzley9 (1407005) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102734)

efficiency of 1.5 to 2 percent. That's not incredibly efficient, but the convenience factor makes up for it.

Not incredibly efficient? I believe that is the understatement of the week. And how in the world does "the convenience factor" make up for it?

Re:Makes up for it? (1)

s0litaire (1205168) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102976)

the fact that there's a lot of glass and metal required in making standard panels they take a bit of time to make and are a bit bulky to store and transport.

Up against being able to print a couple of square yards of solar panels in under an hour or so.

Re:Makes up for it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32103476)

It's incredibly efficient compared to nature's own cellulose based solar collectors.

Please God Nooo..... (4, Funny)

s0litaire (1205168) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102926)

..Don't let "Hallmark" get access to this or we'll be stuck with those annoying greetings cards that play stupid messages forever & they will never stop!!!

How can this compete on price? (2, Funny)

kimvette (919543) | more than 3 years ago | (#32102982)

How can this compete on price? Haven't they priced out inkjet cartridges lately? WTF!! ;)

Very interesting possibilities... (1)

nghate (722525) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103110)

Being able to print solar cells, along with the possibility of being able to print OLEDs could open up a world of opportunities... specifically for advertisements. and magazines...

Re:Very interesting possibilities... (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103662)

Except if it gets wet. I imagine due to effects from humidity these cells wouldn't last long enough to do much of anything.

I did it long ago (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103128)

I printed some solar panels on paper many years ago. Of course, it was just an article from the web, and they were just pictures of solar panels, and they never produced any power, nor were they intended to, but they were solar panels printed on paper!

Not getting it... (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103306)

I remember reading about cheap solar cells being printed on plastic a short while ago, and their efficiency was better than this. Why would we want to use paper instead?

-jcr

Re:Not getting it... (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 3 years ago | (#32104956)

It's nice to have options. Y'know, like when you go to the grocery store and they ask you (or at least used to ask you), "paper or plastic?"
Next up, re-usable photovoltaic cells made from canvas!

Another new technology that... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32103474)

... will be available in 5 years!

solar cell paint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32103608)

They should make it so it can be rolled on like paint, and also look just as good as regular paint. Convert entire building's / cities into solar power generators

print onto shingles (1)

MooseTick (895855) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103632)

Even at 1-2%, if this could be printed onto shingles for nearly no cost, perhaps the energy it could provide may help heat/cool our homes rather than having to let all that energy go to waste.

Main difference from inkjet printing: cost (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#32103766)

The panel was created using a process similar to that of an inkjet printer, producing semiconductor-coated paper imbued with carbon-based dyes that give the cells an efficiency of 1.5 to 2 percent.

The main difference between this and inkjet printing is that it costs about 10 times as much.... normal inkjet printing, I mean.

MIT invents product Nanosolar has in mass producti (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32105280)

Nanosolar sells this product in megawatts. Maybe MIT should study Google instead.

Same Efficiency as Plants (1)

Yergle143 (848772) | more than 3 years ago | (#32105816)

Kudos to the smart people at MIT. Using the same scaffolding substrate as nature, we can match nature's way at 2% conversion. Coupled with automatic assembly and/or extrusion; artificial trees perhaps?

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