As the world continues to look at ways to do more with less, and explores more sustainable innovations, it’s no surprise that solar power has exploded in recent years.
What may be surprising is how 3D printing may continue to revolutionize the industry.
In particular, as 3D printing continues to develop, it may make solar cells plausible for billions across the world for whom the technology is currently out-of-reach. In just the last few years, efficiency of printed solar cells has multiplied tremendously, from 3% to 20%, meaning it’s no longer a substantially lesser cousin of traditional solar panels.
Additionally, because 3D printed solar sheets are so much easier to transport and deliver, other parts of the world are now able to use solar.
Scott Watkins from the Korean company Kyung-In Synthetic said:
“Its success is due to its cost-effectiveness and simplicity. A 10×10 cm solar cell film is enough to generate as much as 10-50 watts per square meter,”
Now solar technology only requires industrial-size 3D printers and perovskite – a mineral consisting of lead, iodine and an organic component. In the future, printed solar cells could provide electric power to 1.3 billion people in developing countries.
A major advantage of printed solar cells in comparison with the conventional silicon-based solar panels is that the latter require much sunlight to be efficient and need to be produced in wafers while 3D printed solar cells offer a more organic way to generate power, using perovskites, and only require industrial printers to be manufactured.
One problem will yet need to be solved, however, as the lightweight printed solar cells are vulnerable to moisture, which could cause lead contamination.
Bernie Jones, project co-leader of the Smart Villages Initiative, an organization that aims to deliver off-grid solutions to rural areas in developing countries says:
“Entrepreneurs we’ve engaged cannot afford to invest in the printing machines needed to produce cheap solar strips,”
Despite all these challenges, printed solar cell technology has the potential to help bring solar power even to the most remote corners of the globe and improve the living conditions of millions of people in the developing world.