Harvesting Energy from Wallpaper

Jan. 5, 2018

Paper-printed PV panels rely on off-the-shelf technology.

A new two-in-one solar panel and battery uses living cyanobacteria and circuitry printed onto paper in an affordable process discovered by researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Cambridge and Central Saint Martins.

Using an off-the-shelf inkjet printer, the team printed electrically conductive carbon nanotubes onto a piece of paper, then printed cyanobacteria (photosynthetic microorganisms that can produce small amounts of electricity) onto the nanotubes. The technology, broadly referred to as microbial biophotovoltaics (BPV), uses cyanobacteria and other algae that uses the process of photosynthesis to convert light into electrical currents using water as a source of electrons.

Previous BPV projects were expensive to develop, delivered a low power output and didn’t last long, but the paper printing process suggests an easier, more affordable way to scale up the technology for potential commercial use.

“Paper-based BPVs are not meant to replace conventional solar cell technology for large-scale power production, but instead could be used to construct power supplies that are both disposable and biodegradable,” explains Dr. Andrea Fantuzzi, a co-author of the study from Imperial College London. “Their low power output means they are more suited to devices and applications that require a small and finite amount of energy, such as environmental sensing and biosensors.”

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