When you hear about inkjet printing you probably think of inkjet printers or inkjet cartridges. You probably don’t think about sustainable energy, solar energy, and photovoltaics.
Inkjet printing has embarked on a new frontier. Scientists have recently made a huge leap forward with the first organic photovoltaics made with inkjet printing processes. After years of research and hard work, the scientists at Solliance have set the stage for a new innovative technology, which is cost-effective for high volume manufacturing. This new technology offers flexibility for the shape of the solar cell and the use of different colors. Their research into inkjet printing for the use of solar energy is changing the face of how solar energy will be derived forever.
This is very exciting news, but you are most likely wondering, what does inkjet printing have to do with solar energy and photovoltaics.
How it Works
The key to solar energy is how the electrical device converts light energy into electricity. This process is called the photovoltaic effect, and it occurs when photons from light are absorbed by semiconductors, which frees electrons from its atom allowing them to freely flow through material. These electrons are then collected and transferred as an electrical current to an external circuit. This type of energy uses light. Some common things you may have seen that use this technology are calculators, outdoor lighting; and, solar panels on homes or businesses. The benefits are the electricity derived from photovoltaics is clean and renewable. The Sun is a constant source of light, which feeds the process.
Clean Renewable Energy
The use of photovoltaics is already clean and renewable; however, until recently the materials used were inorganic such as silicon. The process of creating solar cells from silicon uses dangerous, toxic chemicals. The inkjet printing process uses organic materials, which leaves less of an environmental footprint.
Because the cells are printed, industrial inkjet printing facilities can easily change the cell shapes, substrates and structures, and increase volume manufacturing for ideal products. This low-cost process will enable solar cells to be printed in different colors and integrated into various materials, such as construction products. The process only requires four kinds of ink, which will produce a six-layer stack of cells and another three layers can be utilized to further boost the electricity output with one additional ink per junction. The promise of lightweight, flexible solar cells is leading the way to a more sustainable world.
Promise of a Sustainable Future
This new technology is exciting to anyone who is concerned with renewable resources and leaving an environmental footprint. However, it is most exciting because of the promise of things to come. As this use of inkjet printing leaves the almost exclusive realm of inket printers and inkjet cartridges, and embarks upon the frontier of renewable energy it will begin to touch millions of people worldwide. You and I take electricity for granted, but in some parts of the world it is scarce. Electricity is important because it powers sewage treatment plants, water treatment plants, water pumps, and much more. Millions of people need to get by without electricity everyday. However, with the advancements of inkjet printing photovoltaics electricity can be made anywhere the Sun shines.
Inkjet printing integrated with photovoltaics is revolutionary. It is a renewable energy resource. It is less expensive than inorganic materials such as silicon. The process leaves less of an environmental footprint. The technology is a promise for a more sustainable future. Although the technology is new and there are a few hurdles yet to get over, it is not hard to imagine a world in the not-to-far-future where this inkjet printing process is used on construction materials, cars, boats, signs, storefronts, and even clothing.