Great minds think alike?
Oregon State University (OSU) made an injet printed solar panel. Now MIT has made a printed solar panel. OSU's panel is at 5% efficiency while MIT's is only at 1%. However, MIT's can be folded thousands of times and still work. MIT's panels can also be further printed on, laminated, or treated with extreme heat and will still function.
The demonstration panels were printed onto regular paper using a chemical vapor process inside a vacuum. Very similar to the conditions in Oxford's MBE. 5 layers of material has to be deposited onto the surface one at a time. To form the solar cell pattern, a paper mask is used in a sort of stencil technique. The process in fairly inexpensive and not all that different than how candy wrappers and chip bags are printed with a metallic lining on the inside.
Co author of the study and MIT professor of electrical engineering Vladimir Bulović said, "We have demonstrated quite thoroughly the robustness of this technology. we think we can fabricate scalable solar cells that can reach record-high watts-per-kilogram performance. For solar cells with such properties, a number of technological applications open up." Third world countries were mentioned as a possible destination for the cheap solar panels.
The team believes with refinement of the materials used, the solar efficiency could raise above the current 1%. Bulović said, "[For now] it’s good enough to power a small electric gizmo."