Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Your Tent with Inkjet Printed Solar Energy - Konarka’s Power-Generating Fibres

Imagine you are somewhere in the bush, enjoying wild life. Far from the civilised world, but still with enough power for all your gadgets and utensils, as your canvas tent is printed with solar cells. Last month, Konarka successfully conducted the first-ever demonstration of creating solar cells by inkjet printing.
The inkjet printed objects take light in and deliver power out. This direct current (DC) electrical energy can be used immediately, stored for later use, or converted to other forms of energy.

Enough sun hits the earth's surface in one hour to power global energy needs for an entire year, yet 2 billion people still do not have reliable access to electricity while 2 billion mobile phone owners grow increasingly frustrated with portable power limitations. Meanwhile, the entire world is clamoring for an affordable, clean, convenient and secure energy source that can power tomorrow's economic growth. Instead of more solar installations, Konarka plans to address these challenges through the low-cost integration of renewable power generation capabilities into everyday devices, systems, and structures.

Konarka’s photovoltaic fibres and durable plastics bring power-generating capabilities to structures including tents, awnings, roofs, windows and window coverings.
Consumer electronics such as cell phones and portable music players, networked electronics, laptops and PDAs can be charged, without the need to plug them into a standard wall outlet.
As Konarka’s technology utilizes a wider range of the light spectrum than conventional solar cells, all visible light sources - not just sunlight, but also indoor light - can be used to generate power.

Konarka's polymer photovoltaic materials are manufactured in a continuous roll-to-roll process that is significantly less expensive and capital intensive than the multi-step assembly of traditional solar cells. This proven process, similar to making photo-graphic film, is simple, energy efficient, environmentally friendly, replicable and scalable. The process is literally roll-to-roll. What starts as a roll of plastic comes off the press as a roll of Power Plastic

Spun out of the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2001, Konarka and its power plastics technology has been one of the most well-funded start ups in the area. The company has secured a total of 105 million USD in private financing from a number of investors, including Menlo Park venture firms 3i Group, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and New Enterprise Associates.

Konarka is focused on the development and advancement of nano-enabled polymer photovoltaic materials that are lightweight, flexible and more versatile than traditional solar materials. Konarka’s technology represents a new breed of coatable plastic flexible photovoltaic material that can be used in many applications where traditional photovoltaic cannot compete. Konarka has provided that breakthrough by developing photovoltaic cells on lower cost, lightweight, flexible plastic substrates rather than on glass.

Konarka’s photovoltaic technology can utilize a wider range of the light spectrum than conventional solar cells, visible and invisible light sources, not just sunlight, to generate power. Konarka’s nanomaterials absorb sunlight and indoor light. This light energy travels through the electrically active materials and a series of electrodes and is converted into electrical energy.

Inkjet printing is a commonly used technique for controlled deposition of solutions of functional materials in specific locations on a substrate and can provide easy and fast deposition of polymer films over a large area. The demonstration confirms that organic solar cells can be processed with printing technologies with little or no loss compared to “clean room” semiconductor technologies such as spin coating. The most popular printing tool for organic electronics, inkjet printing could become a smart tool to manufacture solar cells with multiple colours and patterns for low power requirement products, like indoor or sensor applications. Inkjet printing is considered very promising because the polymer devices can be fabricated very easily because of the compatibility with various substrates and it does not require additional patterning.

The company discusses and analyzes the performance of highly efficient inkjet printed organic bulk hetero junction solar cells in a paper recently published in Advanced Materials, entitled, “High Photovoltaic Performance of Inkjet Printed Polymer:Fullerene Blends” by Dr. Stelios A. Choulis, Claudia N. Hoth, Dr. Pavel Schilinsky and Dr. Christoph J. Brabec, all of Konarka.

source: BizJournals

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