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Print Your Power

Written By Brianna Panzica

Posted July 11, 2011

Solar cells are being researched constantly to create things like increased durability, cost efficiency, and facilitated manufacturing.

Researchers at MIT may have done all of this in one fell swoop.

How is this accomplished?

Printable solar panels, of course.

These panels, which can be printed on any uncoated paper or cloth, could revolutionize the solar power industry.

The process consists of covering the surface in a paper mask and printing layers of special ink in a predetermined array, all done within a vacuum chamber.

The process, they say, is nearly as cheap and simple as printing a computer document.

And the durability is fascinating.

These paper solar panels can be folded up to 1,000 times, according to the research, and they will even continue to work after text is printed overtop.

The process requires temperatures under 120°C, much cooler than those required to produce regular solar panels.

And paper is significantly cheaper than any material used before in the solar industry.

But even this great accomplishment has its flaws.

Printable paper panels have very low efficiency rates – as low as 1%.

The printable solar panels aren’t ready to be commercialized. They’ll need quite a few more years of research before some of these kinks can be worked out.

We can’t quite use them on drapes or wallpaper – not yet at least. This could very well be in their future.

The panels have been able to produce up to 50V.

The research was conducted by Karen Gleason, Vladimir Bulovic, and Miles Barr among others, and it was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

In the video below, researchers demonstrate the effects of folding a printed panel.

Panels would be ideal for indoor use, though researchers have indicated that lamination could protect them from outdoor elements.

It may not be too long before we’re printing our own power.

That’s all for now,


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