Plastic Solar Panels

Printable Solar Panels May Be in Our Future

There is a new product on the market that has the "solar power" world buzzing. It is an inexpensive plastic solar panel.

Researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology have developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets.

Until now, the cost and process of manufacturing solar panels has been making it difficult to afford, but these organic solar cells are made from polymers and are a cheaper, simpler alternative.

The inventors foresee being able to "paint" these cells on rooftops or walls. They will even be able to print solar cells on a regular inkjet printer. How easy is that? Can you imagine driving a hybrid solar car with a solar cell "painted" on the top? There are many possibilities for their use.

Unlike regular solar cell arrays, these cells developed at NJIT use a carbon nanotubes complex which is a molecular configuration in a cylindrical shape. It is called nano because of the miniscule size of the tube. Scientists believe these nanotubes are 50,000 times smaller than a human hair. But, just one nanotube can conduct current better than any other wire, even copper.

The NJIT team took these nanotubes and combined them with Buckyballs (known as fullerenes) which form snake-like structures. Buckyballs trap electrons, but can't make them flow. But, when the polymers are excited by sunlight, the buckyballs will grab the electrons. The nanotubes, which act like copper wires, will then make the current flow.



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