We’re not new to the world of printing objects – the evolving art form is becoming more complex by the day, producing huge benefits to industries of all shapes and forms. Now, renewable energy is getting a first-hand encounter with this technology, with printed solar cells now being trialled in a Sydney public space for the first time.
Under development by the University of Newcastle, the innovations include ultra light-weight panels that are ‘ultra-flexible’, able to be recycled and from a cheap manufacturing origin. Once running, they’re able to power up Sydney’s interactive public lighting features single-handedly. And right now, that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Creating recyclable, cheap solar panels
If you look at them up close, they don’t look like anything special, with the thickness of what the university labels as “chip packets”, the panels are created using traditional printing technology. But the most unique part of these installations is that they provide a highly efficient, incredibly cost-effective way to keep Sydney’s lighting needs running on-demand, all the while contributing positive impacts to the environment.
Physicist Professor Paul Dastoor from the university’s Faculty of Science said the crew were thrilled to see the science in action on the streets, demonstrating a big move forward for supporting the material’s journey to the commercial market.
“Globally, there’s been so few of these installations, we know very little about how they perform in a public setting,” said Professor Dastoor. “This installation is the next critical step in accelerating the development and commercialisation of this technology. It presents a new scenario for us to test performance and durability against a range of new challenges.”
Situated in the urban space of Lane Cove Council, the installation uses interactive science to let people engage with their environment. At the same time, they run normal errands like grocery shopping or visiting their local park. Professor Dastoor labels this innovation as “[A] subtle way to spark conversation and showcase ‘what’s next’ in energy generation to thousands of people.”
Thanks to the success of the project so far, the government will also look to decrease carbon emissions after the community showed increase engagement on the topic. Research groups like the University of Newcastle’s are plentiful, working on similar technologies that can help create “clever solutions” for the future.
Globally, interest in printed solar has also tracked upwards, and eyes are now set on a facility for a facility in NSW as a nearby goal. Because printed solar is so cheap to create (with a cost of less than $10 per square metre), it’s extremely inexpensive and fast to create. These are the kinds of advantages the sector currently needs: making solar panels accessible, cheap and on-demand across the board.