Clean energy breakthrough from Australian scientists

    By Hayley Webb  March 19th, 2024

    Scientists from the CSIRO have made a solar energy efficiency breakthrough with printed solar cells.

    The breakthrough involved setting a new efficiency record for sunlight captured and converted into energy with printed solar panels, potentially providing a huge opportunity to Australian manufacturing. Printed solar cells provides a thin, lightweight and flexible solar solution that can be applied in many ways to make solar technology more widely available.  

    While silicon solar panels are stiff and bulky, printed solar cells offer exceptional flexibility and portability. This enables their deployment in novel ways across urban construction, mining operations, emergency management, disaster relief, space exploration, defence applications, and personal electronics. Applications include fabric for tents and sails as well as weaker structures that couldn’t hold conventional solar like greenhouses. Printed solar cells also holds potential as a lightweight mobile solar solution that may be useful to industry operating in remote areas. 

    “CSIRO’s thin and light-weight solar cells are now on the cusp of emerging from the lab to create clean energy in the real world,” Dr Anthony Chesman, CSIRO’s Renewable Energy Systems Group Leader, said in a statement.  

    “We’ve solved several engineering problems to achieve record results across a large surface area of interconnected modules. Roll-to-roll printing allows for the solar cells to be manufactured on very long, continuous rolls of plastic, which can dramatically increase the rate of production.” 

    The technology called perovskite is a solar cell that can be used as an ink and printed using industrial printers. Because of this accessibility, roll-to-roll solar cell manufacturing has a much lower barrier to energy and a lower energy cost than conventional solar.  

    The breakthrough follows a decade of research to develop the low-cost manufacturing of printed solar technology. This latest innovation in sunlight-to-energy conversion is the result of a collaboration between CSIRO, Monash University, University of Sydney, University of NSW and Cambridge University.   

    The team are now looking for industry partners to develop and commercialise the technology.  

    Hayley Webb

    After 6 years leading and developing marketing teams Hayley’s learning journey into sustainability and climate change education began and she was hooked! Being in boardrooms where sustainability wasn’t on the agenda built her passion for making sustainable business accessible for all with education that simplifys the science. When she’s not at Planet Ark Hayley is delivering Carbon Literacy Training, making Instagram reels, sourcing preloved outfits and hanging out in nature with her young family.

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