AMS Spring 2023

Scientists 3D Print New Solar Panels Which Work Best When Cloudy

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Solar panels are the future of energy, at least for those living in areas of the world where the majority of days are filled with bright sunshine, like Florida, Arizona, Egypt, etc. Until recently, if you lived in Seattle, or most of Britain, and Northern Europe, than solar power is not something to get all that excited about.

solar-2This week, British scientists at the National Physical Laboratory, created special solar panels which function best when it’s gloomy outside. That’s right, they produce more energy when clouds are blocking the sun, than when the sun is out in full force. In fact, scientists have shown that the new solar panels manage only 10% efficiency when placed in direct sunlight, while that number jumps to 13% when placed in cloudy conditions.

These solar cells, called organic photovoltaic, are unlike any other. They are made up of small organic molecules which act as semi conductors when struct with solar radiation. The amazing thing is that the molecules can easily be dissolved into a solution and 3D printed into any shape, size, or color desired.

Dr Fernando Castro, principal research scientists at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, said: Organic photovoltaics work much better in low and diffused light conditions. Even if it’s cloudy they still work. It’s not that they are going to produce more power but they are more efficient at generating power from the light that is available. So they would work better than normal soar cells do in cloud.solar-1

Initially scientists expect to see this technology used within electronics and perhaps even clothing, and as the technology progresses, it can eventually be used as a method to obtain energy for the grid. The material is much easier to install, can be customized via 3d printing, and is expected to be put to wide use within the next 5 years.

“Organic PV, which could offer greater efficiency in Britain’s gloomy skies, may appear less efficient based on standardized lab testing. For a long time this technology received little attention and limited push from investors. We would definitely be further on if people realized this earlier.” said Dr Castro.

There is still some work to be done to perfect this solar technology, in order to bring efficiency levels up enough to make them on par with traditional crystalline silicon based panels, but scientists are extremely optimistic about their future.  Discuss these 3D printed solar panels at 3DPrintboard.  Check out how easy it is to install a row of these organic PV solar cells:

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