Two words: simple and cheap. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are taking down common barriers to affordable and easy home solar power. MIT has created paper solar cells with an inkjet printer process.
This amazing solar innovation begs the question: could homeowners print out their own thin film solar cells one day?
Of course, the questions abound on the heels of a momentous announcement like this one from MIT. First come the optimists that cheer the advancement in solar technology. Certainly this means we could all be printing paper solar cells one day! Then come the nay-sayers who point out that carbon solar cells (printed on paper, foil, plastic or other surfaces) still suffer considerable conversion inefficiencies.
In order to take on photovoltaic (PV) mono-crystalline silicon solar panels in the market, the efficiency of carbon solar will have to be raised from the 1-2% they currently offer. Perhaps not all the way to the 20% of PV solar panels, however, because thin film solar is so much less expensive to produce.
With MIT’s research, one thing is for certain. The ability to print solar cells is here. While paper solar cells may not be the kind of durable thin film solar panels that could be broadly used, MIT scientists are looking at using the same inkjet printer-like process to print cells on plastic, foil or a number of other surfaces. Soon, we could be seeing thin film solar cells applied to computers, home products, even camping tents.
Solar technological advances march on. The freedom offered to consumers world-wide from electrical cords – not to mention fossil fuels – is exciting!