Everyone loves the idea of solar energy. The three big challenges are that solar cells are expensive to produce, they’re not very efficient, and you need some means to store the energy collected. I’d heard of solar shingles before, which are basically roofing shingles with solar cells in them, but now word is coming out of solar cells printed on paper. As usual, the technology is still years away from a marketable product, but it’s an interesting development.
The materials MIT researchers used are carbon-based dyes and the cells are about 1.5 percent to 2 percent efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. But any material could be used if it can be deposited at room temperature, Bulovic said. “Absolutely, the trick was coming up with ways to use paper,” he said.
According to Wikipedia, high efficiency solar cells run between 20% and 40% efficient, so these new paper cells still have ample room for improvement. The big advantage to printing solar cells on paper is a dramatically reduced weight, which means more application opportunities.
I haven’t heard any word on new battery technologies to go with these new solar cells. No doubt there’s some group of really smart people working to tackle that aspect of solar energy.