May 14, 2010

Solar Energy Moves a Step Closer

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, have found a way to put solar cells on paper with an ink jet printing process. Although the technology is years away from commercial development, it does raise interesting possibilities for future applications. Apparently, the cells do not generate the same amount of power as current solar cells, but their low cost may offset their lack of efficiency. Imagine solar panels that can be easily transported and then mounted with only a staple gun. Maybe you could even print up a batch at home and take them on camping trips to keep your coffee warm. As a paper product, it may have the added benefit of being completely recyclable. MIT's discovery is not the first nexus between the printing industry and the production of solar panels. A company called Nanosolar uses printing equipment to produce solar electric foil at very high speeds. The foil is then laminated onto a substrate material to produce the solar panel. This is a significant breakthrough in reducing the cost of solar power.

Perhaps the wide adaptation of solar energy to replace fossil fuels is not as far into the future as we think.

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