Researchers in Finland have developed a unique method for printing solar cells with any image or text you can think of – like a photo of your loved ones or a special message. The technique uses photovoltaic ink and dye-sensitized solar cells to create custom images that can be framed and enjoyed while they generate clean energy from the sun’s rays.
Ordinary ink absorbs light, creating heat. Specially developed photovoltaic ink, however, is able to harness that heat and convert part of it to electricity. Researchers Janne Halme, Ghufran Hashmi, Alpi Rimppi, and Merve Ozkan worked together at Aalto University to create the special ink and the semi-transparent solar cell on which to print. The team used their own portraits to test the technology. The initial printed solar cell also includes a QR code which, when scanned, links to the team’s research paper.
Janne Halme, lecturer at the University, further described the solar photos as the next step in the evolution of solar cell technology. “We wanted to take the idea of printed solar cells even further and see if their materials could be inkjet-printed as pictures and text like traditional printing inks,” she said.
The ability to print a custom image or message on a working solar cell seems like just a novel idea at first glance, but the team predicts practical applications for the technology as well. “For example, installed on a sufficiently low-power electrical device, this kind of solar cell could be part of its visual design, and at the same time produce energy for its needs,” said Halme.