Australian Scientists Report Record 15.5% Efficiency for Printed Solar Cells

The solar cells were printed using a roll-to-roll technique

April 2, 2024


A team of scientists from CSIRO, the Australian National Science Agency, have reported a new record efficiency in roll-to-roll fully printed solar cells.

In a paper published in Nature Communications journal, the team demonstrated performances for solar cells of 15.5% efficiency on a small scale and 11% for a 50 cm2 module, a record for fully printed solar cells containing perovskite.

While silicon solar panels are rigid and heavy, printed solar cells are highly flexible and portable and have a wide range of applications ranging from urban construction, mining operations, emergency management, disaster relief, and space to defense and personal electronics.

The flexible solar cells were produced using a method in which all components of the device were fully printed from inks. Carbon-based inks were used to replace gold in the solar cell, dramatically reducing the cost while maintaining high performance.

The solar cells were printed using roll-to-roll techniques, which can be used to print solar cells on a long, continuous roll of plastic.

This lightweight and flexible solar technology, printed onto thin plastic films, is expected to expand solar cell usage and meet the growing demand for renewable energy.

“CSIRO’s thin and lightweight solar cells are now on the cusp of emerging from the lab to create clean energy in the real world. Roll-to-roll printing allows for the solar cells to be manufactured on very long, continuous rolls of plastic, which can dramatically increase the rate of production,” said the agency’s Renewable Energy Systems Group Leader Anthony Chesman.

The team, which collaborated with researchers from the University of Cambridge, Monash University, the University of Sydney, and the University of New South Wales, solved several engineering problems across a large surface area of interconnected modules to achieve record results.

“We developed a system for rapidly producing and testing over ten thousand solar cells a day – something that would have been impossible to do manually. We’ve also alleviated the need to use expensive metals, such as gold, in their production by using specialized carbon inks, which further reduces production costs,” stated Principal Research Scientist Doojin Vak.

Incorporating an advanced material called perovskite, CSIRO’s printed solar panels differ from the silicon solar panels found on Australian roofs. “Our thin, lightweight solar can be easily transported anywhere there is sun,” he said.

The team also sent the solar panels to space to test their performance, to further optimize and provide a reliable energy source for future space endeavors.

Recently, scientists from the National University of Singapore announced a record energy conversion efficiency of 27.1% from a novel triple-junction solar cell, which promises to overcome current limitations in solar technology.

Earlier this year, researchers also found that adding bulky molecules can make perovskite solar cells last longer, surpassing silicon solar cells’ maximum theoretical efficiency.