Screen-printed solar panels?
June 6, 2007 1:52 PM   Subscribe

Solar photovoltaic fabric. I'm trying to find or recall about a particular type of technology that I half-remember, as well as find out more about the current state of the art for flexible and/or fabric and/or imprinted solar panels.

In particular, I'm trying to find/recall information about a technology that involved screen printing glass/silicon beads on fabric, with screen printed circuit traces. The fabric could be cut with shears and hooked up to any of the given traces to start generating power.

It was a fairly crude but ingenious and innovative approach to the flexible solar panel idea. I believe the fabric was blue, like polycrystalline solar cells. Part of the charm to this approach was that it was relatively easy to do and make with off the shelf technology, rather than growing expensive monocrystalline ingots or other traditional polycrystalline on substrate methods that involved greater startup costs and less forgiving tolerances.

Outside of that: What is the current state of the art? What is currently available off the shelf?
posted by loquacious to Technology (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you want either a roll-em-up or a fold-em-up solar panel (you can buy several and daisy-chain them together to boost the output), you probably want either this one (note the desert camo color; guess where these have gotten used in the past five years?) or one of these versions. Brunton makes one too, but I think it seems too expensive for the little power it gives out, relative to the other ones.

If you want an all-in-one rugged unit, on wheels, with solar panel(s) and battery(ies) and converter(s) all attached, you want The SolarOne Harvester. Not cheap, but seems well-built and widely used.

Disclaimer: I don't actually own any of these items...yet...and thus can't vouch for them. But I've done a good bit of research on solar systems, big and small, and these were the simplest and most standalone items that jumped out at me.

I'd love to know about the solar-powered fabric, too.
posted by Asparagirl at 2:16 PM on June 6, 2007

and converter(s) inverter(s) all attached
posted by Asparagirl at 2:19 PM on June 6, 2007

PowerFilm photovoltaic modules are based upon amorphous silicon technology applied to a durable polymer substrate 2 mils (0.05mm) thick using a true roll-to-roll manufacturing process. Finished modules are encapsulated in a variety of materials appropriate for the application use environment.
posted by pungib at 7:11 AM on June 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Follow-up:

While I'm aware of the newer thin film, I'm still specifically looking for what I believe is an older, "cruder" technology.

The newer technologies seem to dominate the searches for my keyword choices.

I remember seeing a video segment about the fabric. They were literally screen printing small pebbles of photovoltaic material in a sort of adhesive paste directly on a coarse fabric. These pebbles seemed like they were a bit larger than grains of rice, but smaller than peas, and blueish in color like cheap polycrystalline solar cells. I believe they created the beads by a tumbling or coating process, probably like making chocolate covered raisins or something.

Again, my fascination with this half-remembered tech is that I'm wondering if it could be accomplished with minimal and crude tools - in the same way that low grade screen printing can be accomplished with crude tools.
posted by loquacious at 12:26 PM on June 9, 2007

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