Boffins promise inkjet-built solar panels

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Researchers at Konarka Technologies have demonstrated a new method of manufacturing solar cells using highly efficient inkjet printing techniques..

The process can help make 'organic bulk hetero-junction' solar cells with inkjet printing, providing a much cheaper method of producing large quantities of solar panels.

The company has developed a material that converts light to energy, dubbed Power Plastic.

"Demonstrating the use of inkjet printing technology as a fabrication tool for highly efficient solar cells and sensors with small area requirements is a major milestone," said Rick Hess, president and chief executive at Konarka.

Inkjet printing is a commonly used technique for controlled deposition of solutions of functional materials in specific locations on a substrate, and can provide easy and fast deposition of polymer films over a large area.

Konarka said that the demonstration confirms that organic solar cells can be processed with printing technologies with little or no loss compared to clean room semiconductor technologies such as spin coating.

This method is considered promising mainly because the polymer devices can be fabricated very easily because of the compatibility with various substrates.

Furthermore, inkjet printing could become a smart tool to manufacturer solar cells with multiple colours and patterns for lower power requirement products, like indoor or sensor applications.

The findings are published in Advanced Materials in an article entitled High Photovoltaic Performance of Inkjet Printed Polymer: Fullerene Blends.

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