Great Looking Solar Power is on the Way


One of the largest obstacles when it comes to convincing consumers to invest in solar power for their homes is the actual appearance of the solar panels. Even though some people appreciate the squared aesthetics of the panels, there are probably more who do not. Now, it is time for some great news that might mean more than one possibly first expects. You see, newly presented technology makes it possible to produce beautiful solar solutions that are not only appealing from an environmental perspective, but also to the eye.

As it turns out, researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd have developed and utilized a mass production method based on printing technologies allowing the manufacturing of decorative, organic solar panels. The panels, designed to harvest energy from both interior lighting and incident sunlight, are capable of powering a variety of small electronic devices and sensors. The best thing about it is that the technology provides a feasible and cost-effective way of producing the functional units as well as the decorative graphics.

Credit: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Credit: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

As Gizmag writes, the organic solar panels are just 0.2 mm thick including the electrodes and polymer layers where the light is collected. They can be placed on interior or exterior surfaces such as windows and walls, as well as on machines or devices, opening up possibilities for solar panels to be not only functional but also works of art. According to Printed Electronics World, the technical center has proven the feasibility of the method in its own pilot manufacturing unit, using commercially available materials. The manufacturing technology is now being commercialized with different operators, and the VTT Tech is actively seeking new final-stage applications for the technology.

The printing machine has the capability to produce 100m of the layered film every minute. The organic cells also require less material than the common kind, which helps keeping the material costs down. The panel has a functional life of a couple of years which is sufficient for a wide range of applications. As AZO Materials writes, the organic photovoltaic cells market is under development and is expected to make a breakthrough within three years.

Credit: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Credit: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

While the flexible designer solar panels are said to be cost-effective, light and have a low level of material consumption, they have lower efficiency than the typical rigid solar panels. The researchers are striving to improve the efficiency of the good looking solutions by working on roll-to-roll printing for inorganic solar panels. Interesting Engineering reports that the results of the tests have been promising and the first of the solar cells made are said to have around five times the performance of the organic cells, whereas the cost can be up to ten times lower. The greatest thing is that, whether you would go with organic or inorganic options, both types are recyclable.


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