Australia: 3D printer solar panels for electric cars

Status: 05/15/2022 2:04 PM

With an electric car in the Australian outback? In the absence of charging stations, it seems impossible. Researchers are now testing a solution: recharging with plastic solar cells that are rolled on board,

By Hannah Eckley, ARD Studio Southeast Asia

Long plastic mats glow in sunlight as they slowly unroll over the lawn. The 18-metre-long solar panels made of lightweight PET will solar power the red car parked next to them for the onward journey. A research team from Australia’s “University of Newcastle” plans to travel across Australia’s coast in this way in September. Scientists expect important insights from the 15,097-km road trip, which should last 84 days.

Ladeprobleme im Outback

One of the biggest problems with the practicality of electric cars is still the availability of charging stations. In remote areas such as the Australian outback, driving over long distances is impossible. Australian researchers came up with a solution: They developed mobile solar panels that can be rolled up, making cars completely independent of charging stations.

The technology behind this is not new: organic solar cells, which contain hydrocarbon compounds – ie plastics – and also known as plastic solar cells, have been researched for years. They offer several advantages over conventional solar cells: due to their plastic nature, they are much more flexible, can be attached to any surface and are much cheaper to produce.

printer to solar cell

This has also been noticed by the Australian team around Paul Dastur, head of the Department of Biological Electronics at the “University of Newcastle”. Your printer, which basically prints wine labels, produces ultra-light PET mats with solar cells for about seven euros per square metre. “Find a carpet at this price,” Dastur says proudly and laughs.

With round trips along the Australian coast under the name “Charge Around Australia”, the plastic solar cells are now being subjected to an endurance test. Because it is still uncertain whether they are strong enough to withstand the everyday ordeal of road trips. So that the collected data can be evaluated immediately, a solar-powered electric car with a support vehicle aims to provide researchers with a mobile home. The vehicle also has technology that feeds the collected solar energy into a charging system that can be used to charge the electric car.

Road Trip as Reconnaissance Mission

But the focus is not only on the research aspects during the journey. The team will visit around 70 schools and organizations in about three months of its journey. With experiments and lectures they want to present their plastic solar cells and generate interest in sustainable energy sources. Dastur is confident in his mission: “I believe that society is very interested in solving the problems that climate change faces.” In Australia in particular, the effects of climate change are already being felt: oppressive heat waves that lead to devastating bushfires, or floods caused by heavy rainfall have been the order of the day in recent years. Is.

Researcher Dastur cannot say for sure whether the new invention will revolutionize the world of electric cars. Because the performance and durability of printed solar cells still need to be worked out. In any case, he sees great potential in his invention: “Our journey is an ideal testing area to determine whether we can also use the technology in other remote locations – for example in space”.


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