'Printed' solar cells a low-cost solution?

Feb. 20, 2012 at 3:21 PM
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Solar cells manufactured using special ink printed onto sheets of a supporting material could lead to new low-cost solar cells, U.S. chemical engineers say.

Solar cells produced with the ink printing process, mass-produced at low cost and not limited by the availability of materials, could economically compete with other energy technologies, researchers at Purdue University said.

"To date, none of the photovoltaic technologies simultaneously meets all these constraints," researcher Rakesh Agrawal said.

Agrawal's lab created nanocrystals of a material called copper zinc tin sulfide, which enabled creation of a light-absorbing ink, a university release reported.

"The concept is that, once you have an ink you can print photovoltaic cells very fast, so they become very inexpensive to manufacture," Agrawal said.

Researchers say to be competitive with other energy technologies solar cells must be capable of generating terawatts, or trillions of watts, of electricity at a cost of 50 cents per peak watt.

"These goals can only be met with a truly transformational technology," Agrawal said.

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