Tube of toothpaste inspires researchers to develop efficient solar panels

solar cells printed with co-extrusion technology

A tube of toothpaste might be the first thing that you see after getting up in the morning. However, while most of us simply forget it after we’ve brushed our teeth, a researcher at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), a Xerox-owned company in Silicon Valley, figured it out the tech employed in the toothpaste tube can guarantee better and more efficient solar panels.

This technology coupled with existing Xerox technology like printing, came out to as eureka moment for the scientist at PARC. By squeezing through a print nozzle a silver paste surrounded by a sacrificial material, which would eventually burn off, researchers found that they were able to get very fine silver lines, which in electronics is nothing less than a revolution.

The sacrificial material, which shapes the silver, resulted in silver line that is just 50 microns wide and 30 microns high. Applying the technology in manufacturing solar panels results in a solar panel with more “blue” area, which is responsible for all energy generating needs. The more the blue area of a solar panel the more energy it can generate and by reducing the size of the connections, which is the task of the silver line, researchers hope that they can easily increase the energy output by 5 percent.

While 5 percent doesn’t seem to be much, the researchers are quick to point out that if we consider a 100MW facility which simply replaces their old and conventionally developed solar panels with the new ones, the facility can output up to 105MW of power. The team isn’t just stopping here as they believe that the same technology can be applied to lithium ion batteries, in which case the fine silver lines would be able to increase the energy density by up to 20 percent.

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