I want you to take a look at two pictures.
First, here’s an image of the Bell Solar Battery, the first solar device to successfully convert sunlight directly into electricity:
Using solar cells developed by Bell Labs, engineers were able to achieve a 6% conversion efficiency. This provided enough juice to power a single phone during field trials.
Now take a look at this…
These are modern solar photovoltaic panels manufactured by SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ: SPWR), available commercially, boasting an efficiency of 24%.
The California Public Utilities Commission just recently approved a 20-year power purchase agreement whereby these panels will supply 100 megawatts to the grid — or enough to power nearly 40,000 homes.
Clearly, solar technology has come a long way. But rest assured, today’s most advanced solar panel available for purchase and installation will be about as useful as a typewriter in twenty years…
Printing Solar Panels from Your Own Home
In the past, we have discussed next-generation solar panels — particularly those that are manufactured using solar inks and dyes. This solar material can be printed or painted onto surfaces, such as windows, walls, and even car exteriors. This is truly ground-breaking stuff.
But thanks to a new development in 3D printing, the manufacturing of this technology may soon transition from massive, temperature-controlled production facilities to small office suites and suburban club basements…
About 9,700 miles away in Australia, scientists have discovered a way to print lightweight and flexible solar panels with little more than a 3D printer and solar ink. No, this is not science fiction. This is really happening — and it’s going down right now.
Although these 3D printable solar panels are not yet advanced enough to power entire homes or buildings, early stage research has enabled developers to apply these “panels” to cell phones and laptops in an effort to offer additional power to installed batteries.
Still, the ultimate goal is to allow consumers to print ultra-thin, transparent plastic sheets of solar that can be incorporated into windows and building materials.
Talk about breaking the chains of utility control!
Of course, while 3D solar printing will prove to be one of the most disruptive developments in the world of distributed power generation, compared to what’s being done today in the world of 3D printing, this kind of thing seems relatively trivial.
A few weeks ago, American engineers used a 3D printer to create a bionic ear. By interweaving electronics and biological tissue, researchers believe this will be the launchpad for the future of bionic implants.
In a recent piece over at Chemistry World, analyst Jon Cartwright wrote:
The process is simple in principle. The researchers send a three-dimensional blueprint of their bionic ear to a 3D printer, which contains three different inks: silicone infused with silver nanoparticles for the electronics; silicone alone for structural support; and chondrocyte cells, responsible for producing cartilage, in a gel. Once the researchers printed the ear, they incubated it in a culture medium to allow the cartilage to form and fuse together. The result is a perfectly ordinary looking ear — albeit with no skin — complete with a spiral coil antenna that mimics the inner ear’s cochlear structure.
According to Manu Sebastian Mannoor, a graduate student involved in the project, this approach creates an organ which has both electronic and biological functionality at once, in a manner where one can’t tell where the electronics begin and the biology ends.
I tell ya, anyone who says the United States can no longer compete in a global market isn’t paying attention to the 3D printing revolution.
I think the Boston Consulting Group said it best:
“Mass production within the US could be far cheaper than producing and shipping products overseas. 3D printing will bring about the emergence of a new ‘Made in America’ era by revitalizing America’s faltering manufacturing industry. . . sending Chinese workers packing as American companies set up their own ‘portable factories.’”
I love it!
This, my friends, is where some of the biggest money is going to be made over the next few years…
And if you don’t already have some exposure to this space, you need to get some immediately.
To a new way of life and a new generation of wealth…
Jeff is the founder and managing editor of Green Chip Stocks. For more on Jeff, go to his editor’s page.
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