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Electronic inks rewrite energy future

The first printed solar demonstration site at the University of Newcastle (UON) was held in Newcastle recently. Creator, UON’s Professor Paul Dastoor, said that at one hundred square metres in size, there were only two other comparable sites worldwide.

“There are just three demonstration sites at this scale that we know of anywhere in the world, so Australia has joined quite an elite group of global leaders poised to make this technology a commercial reality,” said Professor Dastoor.

Professor Dastoor said the material could be manufactured quickly, enabling accelerated deployment into the marketplace.

“No other renewable energy solution can be manufactured as quickly,” said Professor Dastoor. “On our lab-scale printer we can easily produce hundreds of metres of material per day, on a commercial-scale printer this would increase to kilometres. If you had just ten of these printers operating around the clock we could print enough material to deliver power to 1000 homes per day. The low-cost and speed at which this technology can be deployed is exciting, particularly in the current Australian energy context where we need to find solutions, and quickly, to reduce demand on base-load power.”

Professor Dastoor said the demonstration site enabled final phase testing and modifications of the system before the renewable energy technology could be made available to the public.

“This installation brings us closer than we have ever been to making this technology a reality. It will help to determine the lifespan of the material and provide half-hourly feedback on the performance of the system,” said Professor Dastoor.

The material is made by printing an advanced electronic ink onto paper thin, clear laminated sheets using conventional printing presses. Professor Dastoor’s team pioneered both the electronic ink and printing process.

The film is tethered to the roof and walls of the demonstration site by Velcro strips, and ‘roll-out’ is exactly that…’rolling out’ a long sheet of the laminated material.

Professor Dastoor said the light-weight, easy installation qualities of the material, printed at UON’s NIER facility, could help cast a new light on age-old energy problems.

“Because it is light and can be printed quickly it is also ideal for disaster relief and recovery applications supporting displaced people and powering temporary emergency bases. The material can be safely airdropped and very easily installed,” said Professor Dastoor.

“It could be ideal for forward operating bases and special operations as it lightweight – the lightest energy generation technology by kilo that exists, and produces no noise.”

“The material could also be used as sails for yachts and on ship decks.”

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