The University of Newcastle, Australia

Printed Solar Power: a better tactic for mobile power generation

Printed solar cells offer a range of exciting deployment possibilities, including retractable solar farms and wearable solar.

While printed solar technology is not new, viable real-world applications of this technology are yet to be realised. We are the first group in Australia, and one of few globally, to undertake a commercial-scale pilot of printed solar.

Competitive advantage

A versatile, low-cost, lightweight and highly portable renewable energy solution that:

  • Can be rapidly manufactured, deployed and inexpensively replaced if damaged
  • Integrates into structural materials, including vehicle skins, combat ensembles, tarpaulins and tents
  • Can be fitted as retractable solar fields on board vehicles for autonomous, remote power generation
  • Reduces the need for generator or battery airlifting to remote troops

Successful applications of research

  • We are one of the first research groups in the world to undertake a commercial-scale pilot of printed solar, partnering with global logistics company CHEP, a Brambles subsidiary, in 2018 to install a 200-square-metre rooftop array of printed solar in just one day

Partners

  • CHEP Australia
  • Lane Cove Council
  • Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF)
  • National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy

Impact

  • Ultralight and flexible, printed solar can be customised to integrate with operational camouflage to recharge communication devices, night vision goggles and other electronics
  • Large-scale retractable solar farms will reduce reliance on diesel fuel generators and the associated logistical burden and risk of transporting and storing explosive fuels in conflict zones
  • Unlike diesel generators, printed solar is silent and odourless, minimising detection

Capabilities and facilities

  • We are one of Australia's only research groups capable of manufacturing printed solar in-house. This process is achieved within our ANFF-funded roll-to-roll (R2R) production facility that has:
  • Initial material synthesis capabilities, providing high-quality feedstocks on demand
  • R2R coating lines capable of producing the ultra-thin multilayer structure of the printed solar modules
  • R2R metal deposition capability, providing a scalable method for connecting the printed solar cells together