Ink-printed Solar Cells

Nanosolar cell

Daniel: Solar panels, or photovoltaic cells, have been around for several decades now and are used in everything from calculators and watches through to solar power stations. First generation silicon cells have served us well but the last decade has seen an explosion of research into improved technologies, for obvious reasons considering our current climate/energy crisis. The problem with ‘traditional’ silicon solar cells is their high capital cost (both in energy and dollars) and low conversion efficiency (typically on the order of around 10-15%), thus research has centred on improving solar cell technology by lowering costs and/or improving power output.
Much of the high cost of silicon technology derives from the requirement that the silicon used must be purified at very high temperatures which requires a large energy input. Also, the silicon used must be grown as crystals which also requires a large energy input and makes for a rigid product which must be handled with great care.
Second generation technology involved making layers of very thin films of silicon, thus reducing material costs without loss of power output. However this still required the silicon to be ultra pure and was more of a refinement of existing technology.
Now a new, third generation device produced by Nanosolar is setting the standard for cost efficient solar power. Based on copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) semiconductor material this is a thin film technology that is set to significantly improve the cost per kilowatt hour ($/kWhr) of solar power. Using a proprietary ink the semiconductor materials are printed onto an inexpensive metal foil (the ‘paper’) in a continuous roll process. As the ink dries the four components self-assemble into a flexible, ultra thin polycrystalline film which can be thought of as a sheet of quantum nanodots. Printing is easy, requires no high temperatures, can be done in air without special vacuum conditions and uses machinery which is relatively straightforward. These quantum nanodot solar cells currently have an efficiency around 20% which is likely to be improved in time with projections for the architecture of up to 65%. However, it is the lower costs which make this technology a renewable energy industry breakthrough for as the cost of solar power decreases to approach that from fossils fuels (grid parity) the commercial incentive of such fossil fuel power is diminished such that doing the ‘right’ thing = doing the profitable thing.


  1. really good

  2. to date, solar panels which generate more than 100Watts are still expensive but hopefully they are getting cheaper each day `

  3. I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives up to date information *~”

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