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MIT Researchers Printing Solar Cells On Fold-able Sheets

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the bright-ideas dept.

Earth 44

An anonymous reader writes "Following up on earlier work in the field, researchers at MIT are developing a process to print solar cells directly onto many common forms of paper. 'The technique represents a major departure from the systems used until now to create most solar cells, which require exposing the substrates to potentially damaging conditions, either in the form of liquids or high temperatures. The new printing process uses vapors, not liquids, and temperatures less than 120 degrees Celsius. These "gentle" conditions make it possible to use ordinary untreated paper, cloth or plastic as the substrate on which the solar cells can be printed. ... The resilient solar cells still function even when folded up into a paper airplane.'"

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Yes please (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36749554)

Now mass-produce that shit and stick it on all skyward surfaces already, how fucking hard is it?

I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore! [youtube.com]

Re:Yes please (1)

dainbug (678555) | more than 3 years ago | (#36749652)

I so agree. Mod the parent up! I'm sick to DEATH of these stories about great new solar cells printed on any surface. I hear them twice a day. Just STFU and make them already!

GE Bets $600 Million on 2015 Solar Plant (3, Informative)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36752122)

From 2007:
    "GE Engineer Sees Competitive Photovoltaics In Under 10 Years"
    http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/004702.html [futurepundit.com]
"A high ranking engineer at General Electric says in some parts of the United States photovoltaics will become cost competitive by 2015."

From this year (2011):
"Report: GE says fossil fuels, nuclear soon costlier than solar power"
http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/report-ge-says-fossil-fuels-nuclear-soon-costlier-than-solar-power/6686 [smartplanet.com]

And:
http://gweedopig.com/index.php/2011/04/08/ge-bets-600-million-on-2015-solar-plant/ [gweedopig.com]
"General Electric Co made a big push in solar power, saying it will invest $600 million to build a new factory as it pursues what it thinks could be an up to $3 billion business by 2015. The largest U.S. conglomerate, which over the last decade has made itself a leader in renewable energy, said it has designed a thin-film solar panel that converts sunlight to electricity more efficiently than rival products today. The move is likely to ramp up already intense price competition, particularly for First Solar Inc, which uses the same thin-film technology as GE has focused on."

It is happening... Not the same as printing, but that will come too most likely...

Printing on paper takes 10 years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36760870)

Anything that can print can print with this ink.

It is not like it takes you 10 years to understand this. Or does it?

Re:Yes please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36749742)

You are not alone.

Make it or don't, but don't tell me about this crap and then never produce anything.

Re:Yes please (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 3 years ago | (#36749816)

I would have mod'd the parent up but he forgot, "Now get off my lawn!".

Re:Yes please (1)

iceaxe (18903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754150)

ACs are not entitled to use "Now get off my lawn!"

Now, get off my lawn.

And if we thought... (2)

jojoba_oil (1071932) | more than 3 years ago | (#36749584)

the dirty tricks that the printer manufacturers play now are bad. What will happen when your printer's solar cell cartridge runs low?

Re:And if we thought... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36749642)

Dude, it's even worse. The paper itself will e-mail the Secret Service when you print up a load of $20's.

Again with the "solar cell production revolution" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36749612)

...yet what do we have to show for it? A dramatic decrease in solar panel prices? no. A dramatic increase in solar cell efficiency? no. A dramatic increase in solar cell durability? no.

These are all media-whorings and promisemongerings (not necessarily by the researchers themselves, but by Science Reporting in general), probably in an attempt to get more funding and interest into the solar industry. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but eventually this type of thing can blow up in your face, if the general public gets sick of the empty promises.

Re:Again with the "solar cell production revolutio (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36749658)

The public are already sick of the promises. Mainstream media should ignore anything not ready for sale. It's useless information except to scientists.

Re:Again with the "solar cell production revolutio (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 3 years ago | (#36749772)

It's useless information except to scientists.

So let's see what kind of website are we on, here? Does "News for nerds" ring a bell?

Re:Again with the "solar cell production revolutio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36751238)

News for fags.

Re:Again with the "solar cell production revolutio (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753148)

So let's see what kind of website are we on, here? Does "News for nerds" ring a bell?

Yeah, I vaguely recall something like that 5 or so years ago.

Re:Again with the "solar cell production revolutio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36754140)

...what do we have to show for it? A dramatic decrease in solar panel prices?

Whatever the reason, we have seen a "dramatic decrease in solar panel prices" recently.

Five years ago the best you'd hope for was around $10 per watt, but now it's around $2 or so, and likely to decrease even more.

It's getting really hard to use the "high prices" as an excuse for not going solar.

intresting prototype (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36749662)

Very low efficiency, currently at 1% un-optimised, but potentially as cheep as crisp packets , tough and very very light... Might be good for providing night lighting or power to low wattage diagnostic equipment for places like refugee camps especially if you can get the efficiency up, remember light bulbs are surprisingly less bright than the sun so, with LEDs this should work even at its current efficiency.

Re:intresting prototype (1)

cruff (171569) | more than 3 years ago | (#36749794)

Yes, if you watch the video of the solar cell airplane, they are only getting 1/2 A out of it when placed directly under an incandescent lamp. Granted, it isn't stated what the active area of the airplane cell is, or how that compares to what would be available from a higher efficiency cell in the same conditions. However, you won't be powering your shark mounted laser with it anytime soon!

Re:intresting prototype (1)

cruff (171569) | more than 3 years ago | (#36749830)

The correct value is 1/2 micro-A, the edit box ate the mu character I pasted in.

Printed solar-- again ? how many news releases ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36749690)

I've been reading about "printed" solar cells
for 10 years I think. Will they be in production
by 2099 ? What is the cost to produce NOW?
( per KW per surface area )
More important, what patents does MIT have and
will they release the patents to the public if the research
was done at public expense --- or more probably
paid for by other subsidized research?

Re:Printed solar-- again ? how many news releases (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36749842)

From my limited experience as a researcher it takes about 20 years +/-5 to get from genuinely interesting early test systems (animal models for drugs lab only prototypes etc.) to useful products, although this is hurt somewhat by the media hyping some things well before the researchers themselves consider the results interesting.

Solarigami (3, Funny)

CyberDong (137370) | more than 3 years ago | (#36749812)

The company that commercializes this tech will quickly fold.

Re:Solarigami (2)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36751058)

Due to de-crease in revenue?

I'm not Larry Niven (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 3 years ago | (#36749822)

but I approve of this message [technovelgy.com] .

Photovoltaic paint FTW! If only it weren't operating on the same deployment timeline as flying cars and strong AI.

Every 11-year-old boy's dream come true... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36749870)

A Solar Powered Paper Airplane!

The resilient solar cells still function even when folded up into a paper airplane.

Tape a pager-motor with a small propeller onto it and you've got a paper airplane that can circumnavigate the globe !

How cool would that be?

-S

Re:Every 11-year-old boy's dream come true... (2)

Cybershark302 (251658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36750030)

A Solar Powered Paper Airplane!

The resilient solar cells still function even when folded up into a paper airplane.

Tape a pager-motor with a small propeller onto it and you've got a paper airplane that can circumnavigate the globe !

How cool would that be?

-S

Only if it can move fast enough to stay in the sun....

Re:Every 11-year-old boy's dream come true... (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36751148)

Oh come on, that's only about 900mph! No problem!

Re:Every 11-year-old boy's dream come true... (1)

CtownNighrider (1443513) | more than 3 years ago | (#36771172)

Just throw it north of the Arctic Circle in summer;)

I sure hope they aren't fitted sheets... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36750234)

Nobody knows how to fold those things.

Don't care. (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 3 years ago | (#36750254)

Every week some genius solves the energy crisis. Call me when one is actually put into use.

Re:Don't care. (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 3 years ago | (#36750456)

But ... I like hearing about solar vaporware every other week :-(

Re:Don't care. (2)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36750830)

This one is actually vapor ware as the process involves a vapor deposit process.

Re:Don't care. (1)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755442)

They are being put into use. Consider this recent article [bloomberg.com] :

The cost of solar cells, the main component in standard panels, has fallen 21 percent so far this year...

Think about that. A 21 percent drop in price so far this year??? New technologies are bringing down the cost of solar at a really incredible rate. That's not some futuristic, maybe it'll be available some day technology. It's what's on the market right now.,

Fly fly fly away my little birdie (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36750262)

The resilient solar cells still function even when folded up into a paper airplane

Cool. So fold me an airplane and I'll attach an electric motor. It should have no problem flying. Right?

Re:Fly fly fly away my little birdie (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754024)

Read down to the admission that it has pathetic output efficiency. They can measure the current on lab equipment. Unlikely they can do much of anything practical with it. An 8x10 sheet would be about as much juice as the solar cells in a solar calculator. If that.

VAPOR (1, Interesting)

trum4n (982031) | more than 3 years ago | (#36750536)

WARE. Prove me wrong by mass production at the amazing cost i've heard about for years, or just burn in hell.

fuck you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36750930)

WARE. Prove me wrong by mass production at the amazing cost i've heard about for years, or just burn in hell.

Fuck you. Who cares if it's never marketed as a practical product?

Sometimes, scientific progress is just plain cool even if when doesn't show up on the shelves of your local Wal-mart in six months.

Re:fuck you (0)

trum4n (982031) | more than 3 years ago | (#36751236)

When it's something we need to bring our country out of a recession, i don't care about MIT at all. I care about America.

Re:fuck you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755124)

We need solar paper to bring our country out of a recession? It's worse than I thought! We're Dooooooomed!

Finally doesn't sound too far off (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36750800)

After reading the article it doesn't sound like this technology is far off as the process sounds similar to things that are already done on an industrial scale. Yes it requires a vacuum chamber, but the ability to deposit the various materials is the same process that is done to deposit the shiny lining on the inside of plastic bags. Also it uses masks to lay the materials down in the correct locations which to me sounds similar to what is done in the semiconductor industry with photo-lithography. Also it doesn't sound like this uses high heat, caustic chemicals, or expensive lenses. So the usual 5-10 years before it comes to market (i.e. we will never see it) doesn't seem to be an issue. Currently the downfall of this tech sounds like its poor efficiency being only around 1% but even that shouldn't be a problem as I mentioned in an older post that 1% of the earth covered with 1% efficient solar cells would meet all of our current energy needs as we receive about 4 orders of magnitude [nasa.gov] more energy from the sun a day than we use. I didn't see what materials this requires other than the paper substrate so that may also be a limiting factor.

Re:Finally doesn't sound too far off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36751572)

Could be interesting for some narrow types of things. Such as moving print advertising in magazines or animated pictures in books.

I recently found a calculator that I had got for free in the early 80s. With its solar cell it still worked. I was pretty impressed. If it had a battery the thing would have been dead long ago.

Paper and plastic both have issues of bio degrading. Which is a long term issue with the tech. But this sort of thing could be useful for places where small batteries are used now. *IF* it is cheap enough.

Re:Finally doesn't sound too far off (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754400)

I think the efficiency is currently too low for any practical application. Not sure about the cost, but...

OTOH, this *IS* a research project. There's probably lots of ways to improve it, and maybe they'll get around to looking at them. But maybe they'll head off in a different direction, and leave development to someone else. This is normal.

FWIW, *I* am more interested in solar shingles. At low cost and reasonable efficiency...but with long durability. This is also being worked on, though by a different group. (Haven't heard any news for several months, or maybe even a year. But that's too be expected, especially if some company got interested.)

3d printing - the new beowulf cluster (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36752186)

imagine if you had a solar cell printer on thingiverse!

Iowa Thin Films (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36754310)

Iowa Thin Films has been doing this a long time.

paperless world... (1)

schlachter (862210) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754608)

and where will the print them when the office/world goes paperless?

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