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Sydney Scientists to Power Tesla with Printed Solar Panels 

In September, a team of scientists from the University of Newcastle will take to the road in an off-grid Tesla powered by 18 printed solar panels. The Charge Around Australia project is a 15,100km journey around the coast of Australia demonstrating that printed solar technology can be used to generate renewable energy for off-grid electric car charging – while also raising awareness about climate change.

The team behind Charge Around Australia near a printed solar panel and Tesla car, in Gosforth, Australia on April 10. Photo: Reuters

Organic photovoltaics “future of renewable energy”

The printed panels – each 18 metres long – use innovative solar technology known as organic photovoltaics (OPV).

Professor Paul Dastoor and his team at the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Organic Electronics pioneered the development of water-based solar paint that can be printed at high speed to fabricate large areas, using roll to roll processing techniques.

The team claim that OPV technology, also known as plastic cells will play a major role in the future of renewable energy.

“These low-cost, printed solar modules offer immense potential as a lightweight, easily installed alternative to conventional, silicon-based solar panels, which are heavy and cumbersome.

“Envisage a future where the surface of every building or mode of transport could incorporate printed solar technology to generate power.”

Dastoor said the Charge Around Australia project would test the panels not only for their endurance but potential performance for other applications.

“This is actually an ideal test bed to give us information about how we would go about using and powering technology in other remote locations, for example, in space,” said Professor Dastoor.

On the journey, the team will be able to harvest free solar energy from the sun along wilderness stretches where established EV charging stations aren’t available. The panels can be rolled out beside the Tesla to soak up sunlight when it needs a charge.

The future of sustainable power generaton

A partnership between the UK company Charging Around Britain Ltd and the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Organic Electronics, Charge Around Australia aims demonstrate the capability of the portable solar panels to function successfully on the challenging trip and consequently help to dispel the ‘range anxiety’ currently associated with long-distance journeys in electric vehicles.

However, the team’s broader goal is to get the public thinking about the benefits of solar power and its impact on climate change. In a statement on the Charge Around Australia website, the team shared their motivation for the project:

“Our project is designed to educate and support people and organisations, including schools. We aim to shed light on the fact that the future of sustainable power generation for transport and our wider energy requirements is going to be with new technology.

“Expanding access to reliable electricity sources via low-cost sustainable energy such as solar power can reduce poverty and inequality. Limiting fossil fuel use can slow climate change.”

As the team travels around the country, they will visit remote, rural and regional schools and communities as part of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Roadshow. Students will be able to interact with research scientists, learn about the technology and build their own plastic solar cells using non-toxic, risk-free materials.

To follow the team and their journey, visit https://chargearoundaustralia.com/.

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