Manufacturing News, Research & Development

CSIRO achieves record efficiency for printed solar cells

Scientists from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, have led an international team to a clean energy breakthrough by setting a new efficiency record for fully roll-to-roll printed solar cells.

Printed onto thin plastic films, this lightweight and flexible solar technology will help meet the growing demand for renewable energy by expanding the boundaries of where solar cells can be used.

CSIRO’s renewable energy systems group leader Dr Anthony Chesman said, “CSIRO’s thin and light-weight solar cells are now on the cusp of emerging from the lab to create clean energy in the real world.”

Where silicon solar panels are rigid and heavy, the printed solar cells are highly flexible and portable, meaning they can be deployed in previously unimaginable ways across urban construction, mining operations, emergency management, disaster relief, space, defence and personal electronics.

“As these methods are already widely used in the printing industry, this makes their production more accessible for Australian manufacturers,” said Chesman.

The results were achieved in collaboration with researchers from the University of Cambridge, Monash University, the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales, and have been published in the leading journal Nature Communications.

CSIRO principal research scientist Dr Doojin Vak said, “We developed a system for rapidly producing and testing over ten thousand solar cells a day – something that would have been impossible to do manually.”

Carbon-based inks have been used to replace gold in the solar cell, dramatically reducing the cost while maintaining high performance

“We’ve also alleviated the need to use expensive metals, such as gold, in their production by using specialised carbon inks, which further reduces production costs,” said Vak.

Technoeconomic modelling has been used to predict the production cost in Australia.

“The successful commercialisation of printed flexible solar cells has the potential to create significant economic and environmental benefits for Australia and the world,” said Chesman.

CSIRO is actively seeking industry partners to further develop and commercialise this technology.

This Activity received funding from ARENA as part of ARENA’s Research and Development Program – Solar PV Research.

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