Photo by Martin LaMonica at CNET

What if you could simply staple solar panels to your house rather than hiring a professional installation team? That’s not as far-fetched as it sounds — MIT researchers have figured out a way to print thin film solar cells on paper using a process that resembles a standard inkjet printer. If they’re able to gear efficiencies up to scale, the development could revolutionize the production and installation of solar panels.

MIT’s new semiconductor-coated paper features carbon-based dyes that give the cells an efficiency of 1.5 to 2 percent. That’s not incredibly efficient, but the convenience factor makes up for it. And in the future, researchers hope that the same process used in the paper solar cells could be used to print cells on metal foil or even plastic.

Of course, paper solar cells are a long way from commercialization. MIT researchers say that the technology is still in the research phase and it could take years before being commercialized. And once it is? There’s no telling how it could revolutionize the home solar industry, which currently relies on pricey professional installers to set up panels.



Photo credit: Martin LaMonica at CNET