3D printing can be used for about a million useful things—and one more industry is about to benefit from this wonderful technology: solar energy.
Photovalic (PV) solar panels are more common than you might think—remember that old, cheap calculator you used to have? It was powered by a very small PV panel. Larger PV panels are used in an array to provide electricity to homes or power grids.
PV solar panels work by converting sunlight into direct current electricity through the photovoltaic effect. That electricity is then converted into alternating current so that it can be used in homes and businesses.
3D printing lends itself well to creating PV solar panels because the panels can be printed anywhere. Instead of coming off an assembly line somewhere and getting shipped—which can cause damage to the panels—anyone with the right tools can print their own array.
Some researchers down at the University of Melbourne are working with other companies to create solar panels that are thin enough to be 3D printed. Right now, they’re printing the panels onto plastic, but their next step will be to print directly onto rooftops (or wherever else you might want or need a solar panel!)
British scientists have also figured out how to 3D print solar panels that will still work even if it’s gloomy outside—and, actually, work even better under the clouds.
With these advanced technologies becoming easier and cheaper to produce, hopefully it will only be a matter of time until these 3D printed solar panels are everywhere—giving power to everyone.