We all know that solar technology has the potential to revolutionize how we consume energy and power our homes. Unfortunately, the high cost of materials and construction means that traditional solar panels still aren’t practical for everyone. But a new kind of solar cell may change all that. It’s super cheap and easy to install: these solar cells are “printable!”
The technology is called dye-sensitized solar, or DSS. According to Solarfeeds.com, DSS cells work similar to an alkaline battery. The DSS cells are made of a porous layer of titanium dioxide nano particles, then covered with a molecular dye and submerged in an electrolyte solution with a platinum-based catalyst. The molecular dye absorbs sunlight, which activates the electrons. The electrons enter the titanium dioxide layer and flow towards the transparent electrode, gathering energy and finally creating power.
DSS cells are lightweight, flexible and relatively inexpensive. They can be literally painted onto all kinds of surfaces and disguised with attractive colors and designs. But applying DSS cells is still an extra step — at least, it used to be. Recently, two companies have found a way to incorporate DSS cells in raw materials. The process is being described as “printing.”
CNET reports that Australian solar developer Dyesol has partnered with manufacturer Tata Steel to coat 10-foot steel girders with a single, continuous DSS cell. Instead of painting a composite of DSS cells onto an existing girder, the coating is applied directly during the girder’s construction. “It’s the world’s largest dye-sensitized solar cell module,” writes CNET’s Candace Lombardi.
This new “printing” process will enable manufacturers like Tata to embed solar technology in a high volume of materials at low cost. Dyesol and Tata are also planning to develop “printable” solar roofs, windows and even automotive materials, and they’re not the only companies working on integrated solar. In a few years, this new technology could make solar power a default feature in new homes and buildings. “Printing” might even power the office inkjet!
Photo credit: Living Off Grid