A team of 50 scientists in various fields worked for years to develop paper-thin, printable solar panels as part of the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium. They hope to see commercial market production for use in low-power applications in the very near future.
The key benefit of such technology is in transforming the way personal electronics are charged. “iPad covers, laptop bags, skins of iPhone [will no longer be] just for casing electronics, but to collect some energy as well and power those electronics,” Fiona Scholes, a senior research scientist at Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, told ABC News.
What’s more, the energy source can be transported to the world’s remote and developing regions in a cheap and easy way.
According to the consortium’s website, the difference between existing solar panels and the technology it is developing is that “organic cells offer the potential to allow printing directly onto materials such as roofing and windows, and therefore open intriguing building integrated design opportunities.”
The consortium is comprised of members of CSIRO, Melbourne and Monash universities.
They’ve now managed to reduce the solar panels to the size of a coin. They achieved results by using ordinary 3D printers adapted to work with solar ink. “It’s very cheap. The way in which it looks and works is quite different to conventional silicon rooftop solar,” Scholes went on.
“It can be made to be semitransparent – we can use it for a tinted window scenario.” The team is now in the process of developing a spray-painted coating.
The big implication for the future is that once they’ve got the process streamlined of adapting plastic for solar panel use streamlined, powering entire skyscrapers would be no big deal.
“We print them onto plastic in more or less the same way we print our plastic banknotes,” Scholes also said. “Connecting our solar panels is as simple as connecting a battery.”
As their dream gets closer to realization, companies are beginning to show interest in developing the technology further.
“We would like to improve the efficiency of solar panels – we need to develop solar inks to generate more energy from sunlight… We are confident we can push the technology further in the years to come,” Scholes said.
The potential for alternative uses is endless, she told Mashable. “They could potentially be used in a whole range of applications such as consumer product packaging, windows and window furnishings, temporary structures, remote locations and developing communities.”
These trees are the work of Syracuse University sculptor and artist Sam Van Aken who created the trees in an attempt to make people reconsider how food can be produced.
The project began in 2008 when Mr Van Aken discovered that a New York state orchard, which held varieties of stone fruit 200-years-old, was to be abandoned.
In hopes of saving it, the artist bought the orchard, and soon after started experimenting with something known as ‘chip grafting.’ The process involves taking a sliver off a tree, including the bud, and inserting that into a cut in the working tree.
What he came up with is ‘The Tree of 40 Fruit’, which is in fact, not one tree, but a series of hybridised fruit plants.
WHAT IS CHIP GRAFTING?
The ‘Tree of 40 Fruit’ project was created using something known as chip grafting. The process involves taking a sliver off a tree, including the bud, and inserting that into a cut in the working tree.
The foreign tree part is then taped and left to heal over winter. Mr Van Aken explained that most stone-fruits are easily compatible.
Grafting is usually done in winter or early spring with dormant scion wood.
So far, Mr Van Aken has created and placed 16 trees in museums, community centres and private art collections around the U.S..
In spring, the trees blossom in shades of pink, crimson and white, and in summer, they bear a range of stone fruit, as shown in Mr Van Aken’s CGI image.
‘I’ve been told by people that have [a tree] at their home that it provides the perfect amount and perfect variety of fruit,’ Mr Van Aken told Lauren Salkeld at Epicurious.
‘So rather than having one variety that produces more than you know what to do with, it provides good amounts of each of the 40 varieties.
‘Since all of these fruits ripen at different times, from July through October, you also aren’t inundated,’ he said.
Mr Van Aken’s trees can be seen in cities across the U.S., including Santa Fe, New Mexico; Short Hills, New Jersey; Louisville, Kentucky and Pound Ridge, New York.
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