An Australian scientist has developed a new method of manufacturing solar cells using nothing more than some nail polish remover, a pizza oven and a standard inkjet printer.
The iJET technique is so easy and cheap to carry out that it could revolutionize access to solar technology in the developing world.
In a recent radio interview (audio), Nicole Kuepper, a 23 year-old PhD student at the University of New South Wales, explained the process.
Firstly, she takes a standard silicon solar cell and sprays it with a substance similar to nail polish. Then, she inkjet prints something like nail polish remover onto the wafer in a set pattern in the same way that you’d print a normal photo. This enables the creation of high-resolution patterns on the cell at a very low cost. The cell is then metallized with an aluminum spray and baked at a very low temperature of around 550 fahrenheit in “something like a pizza oven.”
Kuepper went on to explain how solar cells are currently manufactured using expensive “high-tech, high-cleanliness equipment,” too costly for many countries in the developing world, adding, “we’re trying to do away with all of that so that so we can ensure that these solar cells can actually be manufactured in a developing country’s environment that you might find in say Ghana or Laos for example.”