ScienceEnvironmentA Newcastle University team hopes to drive throughout Australia using printable solar...

A Newcastle University team hopes to drive throughout Australia using printable solar cells

The University of Newcastle is pleased that its innovative flexible and printable solar models are now being deployed in the “real world.” The researchers believe that this will hasten the commercialization of the “disruptive” technology.

The flexible and printable solar cells were used for the first time in the real world in July 2020, when they were constructed into new shade structures for the Lane Cove Council’s new public area in Australia.

The Lane Cove Council is working on a large initiative to develop a public green space called The Canopy. It will contain a green wall, electric car charging stations, and rainwater collecting. It will also be one of the world’s first public spaces to employ printable solar cells.

The solar modules were created by the University of Newcastle, and principal inventor professor Paul Dastoor of the university’s department of science indicated that proving the performance and long-term endurance of the panels in real-world deployment will aid in the panel’s commercialization.

The printable solar panels are created using organic solar cell processes. This provides them with significantly additional agility than standard solar cells, which rely on rigid and brittle silicon solar wafers.

The printable solar cells are based on advances in perovskite solar cell technology, much of which is being carried out by Australian academic organizations. This technique might be utilized to create low-cost, user-friendly solar power systems. It might, for example, be embedded into the surface of buildings or electric cars.

In April 2022, a group of Newcastle scientists began preparing for an 84-day, 15,097-kilometer cruise along Australia’s coast to test the printed organic photovoltaic panels.

The team set out to charge an electric Tesla vehicle (EV) by unrolling 18 flexible panels beside the vehicle, creating an off-grid charging infrastructure. A printer used to produce wine labels printed the organic solar cells on laminated polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic.

According to the university team, the 18-metre long lightweight and ultraflexible strips have the thickness and look of a chip package. The project’s goal was to evaluate the technology’s effectiveness and endurance in the real world while also providing the team with an opportunity to educate people along the way.

The Charge Around Australia initiative, which began in September, is a collaboration between the UK business Charging Around Britain Ltd. and the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Organic Electronics, where Professor Paul Dastoor and his colleagues created the printed solar cell technology.

According to the Charge Around Australia initiative, the primary hurdles for printed organic photovoltaics are efficiency and durability. According to the report, extensive economic modeling has demonstrated that large-area solar technology can compete with coal-generated power, even if the devices aren’t particularly efficient or long-lasting.

According to the project’s website, the predicted efficiency of a pilot size installation is about 1%-2% with a lifetime of one to two years, with manufacturing at scale costing as little as $0.88 per kWh.

University teams claim that their technology can be manufactured for less than $10 per square meter and fast with commercial equipment capable of printing kilometers of material each day.

“No other renewable energy technology is as readily made.” “The cheap cost and rapid deployment of this technology is interesting because we need to discover solutions rapidly,” Professor Dastoor added.

Over 99% of the panels are composed of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, which the Newcastle team is investigating recycling methods for. “We intend to detach the outer PET layers and reuse them to build fresh panels with little processing,” Professor Dastoor explained.

They have covered several areas in NSW with morale remaining strong three weeks into the voyage since their departure on September 2nd, and the drive crew is looking forward to moving on through Queensland and into the Northern Territory.

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