'Stick-on' solar cells powering up the iPod generation

Thursday 10 September


'Stick-on' solar cells powering up the iPod generation


Solar energy stored in tiny plastic cells could soon be used to power homes, mobile phones and even iPods, courtesy of the latest solar energy research underway in Queensland.


The new generation solar cells - made from moulded plastics and far smaller and cheaper than the silicon panels fixed to rooftops - are now less than three years away.  The cells can be stuck to windows like shade tinting or embedded into roof materials to turn the entire roof surface a solar energy-capturing device.


According to the University of Queensland's principal researcher, Associate Professor Paul Meredith, there is no reason why the plastics which now cover many of today's electronic gadgets could not also provide the solar energy to power them.  He said the technology, being developed at UQ, could easily power a a car. Mobile phones and iPods could also use the cells to harness energy in the same manner.  "If you think about your mobile phone which has a plastic case, I mean why not have that plastic case as your solar cell?" he said. "It really comes down to your imagination."


He predicted the cost of the energy produced by a plastic solar cell would be around $1 per watt, about one eighth of the cost of electricity stored in a conventional silicon solar cell.  "So again if you had the average family home consuming a peak power of 4.5 kilowatts, then you can imagine  how cheaply you could power your whole home using this technology."


Fellow researcher Paul Burns said the applications were very close to the market.  "I think that we can realistically say that we are going to see in the next two to three years some very large scale deployment of these things," Professor Burns said.  "We have had discussions with one of the companies involved and we know that they have a very, very aggressive expansion plan.


Both researchers are from the University of Queensland's Organic Solar Cell Alliance (OSCA) team - which now includes around 30 researchers from the United States, James Cook University, CSIRO and the Australian Research Council and a Cairns-based firm called SolarCells.


Professor Burns said the $1.9 million grant announced this week by Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser would help develop the technology for market faster than the competition. "We are actually getting to a position where we are going to be internationally competitive in the race to develop that next generation of technology," he said.


Editors Comments : Wow, this technology could revolutionise the way we think about energy !  I don't yet know anything about the effect that this power source would have on the environment but it doesn't sound like it's anywhere near the damage that we know, for sure, conventional power sources do.  And the exciting thing about the introduction of this sun-power source, apart from the probable reduction of green house emissions from burning fossil fuels or the contamination of the planet with nuclear waste (or wherever they put it), is it will all be done without having to debate the matter with idiots, politicians or unaccommodating foreign nations.  Just by finally harnessing the power of the sun, and let's face it we 've got plenty of that free of charge, we, the people, could get on with saving the planet instead of wasting time  hearing others talk about it.  Well done Queensland, leading the world !