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University of Texas's nanoparticled-based solar ink can be applied to a prepared surface with a standard airbrush.   (Source: Cockrell School of Engineering/University of Texas at Austin)
Solar power just a spray away.

Though solar power and more specifically, photovoltaic construction have improved vastly in just a few years, two of the factors that have always made solar power a non-viable alternative energy source for consumers and providers alike are its cost and its lack of physical installation flexibility. Fortunately these are the very two things that have seen rapid progress.

As long ago as March of 2008, research has been surfacing from various institutes working on what can only be described as solar ink. Konarka Technologies Inc showed its offering as an organic ink able to be printed on several surfaces which before were unusable due to their lack of compatibility with inorganic semiconductors.

This month, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have published work with another type of printable photovoltaic ink. Rather than being organic molecule-based, the UT group's ink uses a copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) nanopartical solution. The CIGS solution is both less expensive to manufacture than silicon-based inks and environmentally friendly.

Thus far the researchers have produced prototype cells that produce electricity at about 1% efficiency. This is far too low to be commercially viable and the intent is to push the number to 10% efficiency, bringing the ink up to par.

The inks can be applied to various surfaces by simply painting them on. Konarka touts an inkjet printer process, while UT's ink can simply be sprayed or roll printed on several surfaces, including plastic and stainless steel.

Another interesting property of the UT inks are that they are semi-transparent after the printing process. This could lead to layers of the photovoltaic in innocuous places like skylights or tinted car windows. Or perhaps, combined with new University of Illinois flexible LED technology, could be used to create self-powered display systems for any number of practical applications.



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Why is this news?
By randomly on 8/25/2009 9:33:12 AM , Rating: 2
There are at least 22 companies working on CIGS based solar cells, with achieved efficiencies already up to 19.5%. Companies are already in large scale commercial production with thin film CIGS cells.

What about this UT work is unique, new, or relevant? This work has nothing to do with reducing solar cell cost.




RE: Why is this news?
By namechamps on 8/25/2009 9:45:28 AM , Rating: 5
Efficiency without cost is irrelivent.

If I make a panel that is 10% efficient at $4/watt and you make a panel that is 20% efficient at $9/watt my panel is more useful except in few situations where size & weight is worth a 100% premium.

Most ultra high efficient panels also have ultra off the chart costs.

If (and it is a big if) these researchers someday can make a mere 8% efficient panel but at a cost of say $1/watt it would revolutionize solar.

Even at a mere 8% efficiency the average home has enough south facing roof area to generate enough power for a substantial portion of the power needs and at $1/watt it becomes a lot better ROI.


RE: Why is this news?
By mars2k on 8/25/2009 11:55:52 AM , Rating: 2
You correct about cost/efficiencies. However...with current incentives from power companies and the government PV can make a lot of sense. Many power companies, mine included, offer $3/watt rebates + power buy back at the highest price they pay for renewable sources. There are 30% tax credits from the government. With all this in place you also have the added benefit of stabalizing energy costs over the life of the system.

Take another look at the numbers with incentives. The bottom line changes a lot.


RE: Why is this news?
By sonoran on 8/25/2009 1:58:50 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Take another look at the numbers with incentives. The bottom line changes a lot.

And where do you think that incentive money comes from?


RE: Why is this news?
By randomly on 8/25/2009 1:27:23 PM , Rating: 3
You missed the point.

There are already companies using the same CIGS technology to print solar cells. The cells are much more efficient. The cells are cheaper. They are already being made in industrial quantities.

What new aspect of CIGS based technology does this UT research paper reveal that is not already being done by multiple companies?

As to your comments on efficiency and cost, they are only crudely correct. In reality solar cells with less than 10% efficiency are not considered economically competitive because the cost of the panels and environmental protection layers, mechanical support costs, and installation costs come to dominate the over all installed system costs. The devil is in the details.


RE: Why is this news?
By acase on 8/25/2009 9:59:33 AM , Rating: 3
I'm not sure why it is news, but at least it was a fairly well written, informative article. I don't even think I saw any errors, except maybe for a few missed commas. It also had a tolerable amount of opinions. Give this man Mick's job.


RE: Why is this news?
By kattanna on 8/25/2009 11:06:59 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
Give this man Mick's job


when mick first started, i felt it was in response to counter the view of masher at the time. and mick, for the most part back then, did a "decent" job of it. once masher left, mick seemed to become much more tabloid like in his "reporting"

i half feel that the site owners might have even approved as it probably initially brought in extra page views.

with all that said, i dont want to see mick replaced per se, but return to a more genuine reporter like ways, which could be nothing more then a pipe dream.


Uh-Huh
By FingerMeElmo87 on 8/25/2009 9:15:57 AM , Rating: 2
I see this being the next big fetish in porn. Photovoltaic genitals any one?




RE: Uh-Huh
By Chudilo on 8/25/2009 10:58:35 AM , Rating: 2
Ha ha. Yes, make a photovoltaic condom with a flexible LED at the rim. So that the rim would light up every time you're out.
Brilliant!
This is how we end up with something like Viagra in a search for high blood pressure treament.


RE: Uh-Huh
By JediJeb on 8/25/2009 12:26:04 PM , Rating: 2
Not sure about porn, but imagine the possibilities for PV Tatoos. They are already experimenting with implanted computers, this could one day power them.


Road surfaces
By iamafractal on 8/26/2009 8:07:45 AM , Rating: 2
I'd really like to see an economical way to get all the roads in the country into the act of collecting solar energy. It would cool down the roads nicely, and give us a whole new power source.




RE: Road surfaces
By jeffw on 8/26/2009 10:34:57 PM , Rating: 2
They would be better off starting with something that did not get run over thousands of times a day, like a mountian side, or the desert.


RE: Road surfaces
By Fritzr on 8/27/2009 5:21:14 AM , Rating: 2
Being worked on. This company has a grant to further develop their idea and are in the process of turning a Wal-Mart parking lot into a solar panel

http://www.solarroadways.com/

This was picked up by the North Idaho & Eastern Washington news. Perhaps DT could look into it and publish a bit of news about solar roads now in development.


CIGS deposited or ink
By jeffw on 8/25/2009 10:00:08 PM , Rating: 2
Both process use Hydrogen selenide gas, it is deadly at 1ppm... Good luck bringing that into production!

Even at $1/watt for the modules $2/watt to package,sell, install, it is still a $15 year payback.




RE: CIGS deposited or ink
By miniMUNCH on 8/26/2009 2:57:40 AM , Rating: 2
H2Se is also highly explosive... and yeah, literally one lung full of like 200 ppm H2Se and you are a dead man walking... your lungs will bleed until you can't breath anymore.

We had one guy that wanted to do some selenide PV material deposition in our lab... 'hell no' the rest of us said.


Good
By Xavier434 on 8/25/2009 9:25:37 AM , Rating: 2
Glad to see that people are working on these kinds of technologies. I hope they succeed in their goal.




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