CSIRO's printable solar cells that can cover architectural surfaces are now heading towards commercialisation.
CSIRO will partner with two Australian companies - NSW start-up Solafast and Melbourne printing company Norwood - to get the product ready for the commercial solar market, which in Australia alone is estimated to be worth $250 million per year. The two-year project is backed with $1.6 million through the CRC Projects (CRC-P) initiative.
It will be the culmination of almost a decade of research by the Victorian Organic Solar Cell (VICOSC) Consortium, a research collaboration between CSIRO, Monash University, the University of Melbourne, BlueScope Steel, Innovia Films, Innovia Security and Robert Bosch SEA.
The idea behind the project are 'solar ink cells' that can be printed onto flexible plastic films. Instead of silicon, the solar cells are based on organic photovoltaics and dye-sensitised solar cells.
According to the consortium, the cells are cheap to produce and can be applied onto plastics with off-the-shelf printing equipment. As the films are flexible and potentially semitransparent they can be used in a broad range of applications, such as to cover windows, window furnishings, rooftops and even consumer product packaging.
If successful, the two-year project is expected to help slash the cost of solar PV and create an environmentally responsible building material that doesn't compromise architectural integrity.
At present, around 15% of Australian homes have installed domestic solar systems, but the commercial sector remains a largely untapped market, due to expense, safety risk and difficulty of installing current systems.