back to article Scientists print out solar cells using inkjet tech

While 3D printers spew out house keys, ladies' swimwear and even compete with Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen department, the lowly inkjet has effectively been shoved aside. There's still some life in the old boy yet, though, after scientists used one to print solar cells. Boffins from Oregon State University (OSU) claim to have …


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  1. TeeCee Gold badge

    Printed solar cells.

    Hang on......if you put those on your roof, won't the paper get all soggy when it rains?

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch

      not necessarily

      You can use the same techniques used in washi paper making, making them less absorbent. Though my guess is that if you're printing something that's only microns thick paper might be too bumpy. So I guess they print on glass or plastic?

  2. Bill Cumming
    Paris Hilton

    perpetual printing...

    now if you hooked up a roll of continuous paper to one of these printers and started the printer...

    Then used that to power the printer...

    Would that count as perpetual motion....?

    1. Ru


      Cos its solar powered, isn't it. Possibly the least effective way to extract energy from a bajillion tonne fusion reactor, but it is still powered. You muppet.

    2. Arnold Lieberman

      perpetual motion noun

      perpetual motion noun, physics the motion of a hypothetical machine that continues to operate indefinitely *without any external source of energy*.

  3. Simon Harris

    "The inkjet technique reduces raw material waste by a staggering 90 per cent."

    Obviously not using my ink-jet printer then.

    That one seems to spend half its life doing cleaning cycles and spurging my expensive ink into foam pads.

  4. Christopher Michaelis

    @Bill Cumming

    Nope. You have an energy input being consumed, namely the sun. You'd have to have the machine feeding itself power, not relying on an external power source.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK ahead...

    Already being done by Eight19 in Cambridge, who spun out of Cambridge University:

  6. Tom 7 Silver badge

    5% is not too inefficient!

    Get a grip - if a whole roof running at 5% costs not much more than a ream of foolscap then the electricity it produces will be a fuck of a site cheaper than a few of square meters of high efficiency PV that costs as much as a family car.

    Renewable power is really cheap if the anal retentive don't spend their lives doubling the cost to increase the efficiency by a couple of percent. But oh no you cant possibly use a 1kw car alternator for £100 you have to have a £1000 permanent magnet jobie that will generate 2% more power over an installations lifetime.....

    1. Aldous

      design flaw

      car alternators are designed to work in the thousands of RPM range an engine works out. getting that speed from a windmill would be impressive to say the least

      1. Richard Brown


        Gearbox perchance

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        re speed of altenator

        you can gear it up and loose some power and still be quids in.

        But then, in the long term, why not mass produce ones that work at the lower speeds for a similar cost.

        Can you explain why a £2.5k windmill setup costs anything like it does - when a mass produced version of the same, but maybe 20% less efficient should come in around £300.

        Now put up 8 of those in an acre or two and you could retire with tariffs as they are - and use the excess power generated that cant be sold to the grid for an olympic sized jacuzzi to sip your G&T in.

      3. M Gale


        They don't just go in a downward direction, yaknow.

        Though whether a car alternator plus gearing plus the wear and tear on the brushes is any cheaper than buying some lanthanide magnets and winding your own coils to stick on a backplate is another matter. You can make a DIY brushless permanent magnet jobbie for not that much these days. Might not have quite the efficiency of a precision-engineered thing costing thousands, but then I think the OP's point was.. err.. yeah. Cheap.

    2. Charles Manning

      $/W is the only meaningful measure

      The primary limiting factor for high PV uptake is cost per W. As the parent says, so what if it is 10x the size, just tile the roof with the stuff.

      Of course PV is in itself only part of the equation, It has already got to the state where the inverters etc cost 50% of the cost of a grid connected system. Bringing down cost of the support electronics is going to be the next major issue.

      Even if grid connected PV was to provide 100% of daytime power generation, you'd still need power stations to provide dark time electricity. Battery technology is far too primitive to do the job.

  7. Richard Brown

    Reinventing the wheel

    Already done by Nano Solar - not in a research lab - in production.

    And no, I am not a shareholder (mores the pity).

  8. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    When will it all end?

    There's a major problem with solar PV etc - the research and technology is just moving too fast.

    Every week there are several stories in the press about another research team making another PV breakthrough that will reduce the production cost/increase the efficiency of solar cells. Great!

    But no-one in their right mind would invest in any of these brilliant ideas, 'cos you'd lose a packet. Why? Because six months after your wonderful two-billion-dollar factory opens, some joker down the road will open THEIR factory with newer, cheaper technology (the fruits of another 6 months research breakthroughs by someone else), and they will undercut you by 50% - and six months later THEY go bust as yet another cheaper producer comes on-line.

    We're not going to get seriously cheap solar PV everywhere until someone develops a technology (possibly something simple like this ink-jet thingy), that can totally change the game and be produced in worthwhile quantities, quickly, using production methods that only cost a few million quid to set up (i.e. low risk) rather than the usual few billion needed for major high-tech silicon FABs.

  9. TkH11


    if you used suitable gearing you could get thousands of revs out of a windmill..

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