Washington, Feb 26 (ANI): In a previously untested method, solar power cells have been produced by printing presses normally used to make Australian dollar bills.
According to a report in National Geographic News, the giant machines arranged and stamped flexible solar panels onto plastic film, in a trial near Melbourne last week.
The cells were only 3 percent efficient, meaning they could convert only a small amount of solar energy into electricity.
But, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) project leader Gerry Wilson told Australian ABC News that he expects the output to more than double by next year and top 10 percent after that.
He said that he hoped the solar cells would be ready for mass production in five years.
"The main advantage is that the cells can now be produced in vast sheets or rolls, making the cells ideal for windows or large-scale, rooftop applications," Wilson said.
The printers could turn out 62 miles (100 kilometers) of solar sheeting every day, according to CSIRO.
The polymer used in the solar cells is the product of a 7.7-million-U.S.-dollar research consortium that includes energy company BP Solar and construction material company BlueScope Steel.
"The involvement of construction companies was critical in creating the technology," said Attilio Pigneri, associate director of the Centre of Energy Research at Massey University in New Zealand, who was not involved in the project.
"The capability to develop materials ready for the housing market-where the photovoltaic (solar power) cells are already integrated in the construction material-is going to have significant impacts in bringing down (energy) costs," he added.
He said that printing flexible cells solves the biggest problem associated with traditional solar panels: the need for extra structures to support them. (ANI)