Solar arrays can put a serious dent in your electricity bill, however the cost of installing a photovoltaic system remains prohibitively high for many people. Printed Energy has proposed a solution. The Australian company is on a mission to print out ultra-thin, flexible screen-printed batteries, which can then be applied on top of super-thin flexible screen-printed solar panels, considerably cutting installation costs.

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Earlier this week, the company signed a deal with UNSW and the University of Queensland — and received backing from the federal government — to produce the printed batteries and offer them on the market. The $12 million project also received a $2 million grant from the Cooperate Research Centres Projects scheme. Having obtained funding, Printed Energy now seeks to produce “solid state” batteries that are thin and can be printed in a “roll-to-roll” process — similar to a newspaper. The printed batteries will also be adaptable to any shape.

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The idea isn’t to pair the printed batteries with existing solar technology but to match it with printed solar panels, and other devices the batteries could power. According to Rodger Whitby, CEO of Printed Energy and of the St Baker Energy Innovation Fund, the printed battery technology is ideal for powering sensors, devices for the internet, disposable healthcare devices and, of course, renewable energy. While the invention could revolutionize the renewable energy industry, the company’s main priority is developing the batteries for “disposable devices.” Battery storage for solar will follow. Said Whitby, “We are really thinking of this type of battery in a different paradigm. We have also got IP for printed PV – so the idea is to have a sub-strata plastic sheet, and print solar on one side and battery on the other.”

The printed batteries stand apart from other battery chemistries because the company is using commonly available metals, such as zinc and manganese oxides along with inorganic matrix structures, to produce the invention. This makes them low-cost, non-toxic and very low in flammability. However, challenges persist. For instance, the printed batteries, which are expected to cost next to nothing, still need to have enough efficiency to produce suitable amounts of power, store it, and to make it worthwhile in areas where competition exists. When asked if the vision can be achieved, the CEO of Printed Energy replied: “We don’t know. We have got a lot of research to undertake before we answer that question.”

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Related: Rocket Lab’s new rocket is 3D-printed and powered by batteries

As Renew Economy reports, the project is being backed by Sunset Energy which has a hypocritical relationship with the clean energy industry. For instance, the company’s principal, Trevor St Baker, invested in a Tesla, put solar on his roof and has created an “energy innovation fund,” yet has argued against renewable energy targets and even recently said that “baseloading of intermittent renewables to replace coal in the foreseeable future … will just drive business out of the country.” Nonetheless, it’s backing by Sunset Energy and other companies that will ensure the product comes to market.

+ Printed Energy

Via Renew Economy

Images via Printed Energy, Gigaom