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They're 3-D printing WHAT now?

They're 3-D printing WHAT now?
photo courtesy of shutterstock

When you think of Australia, the first thing that pops into your head probably isn't energy innovations. You're most likely thinking about kangaroos, deadly spiders and other venomous wildlife.

What's the deal with all those crazy critters anyways?

But Australia isn't just the home of incredibly dangerous and beautiful flora and fauna. The Outback is actually the home of the latest energy revolution!

A team of 50 researchers including physicists, engineers and chemists from Australia's National Science agency called CSIRO have been working since 2007 to create a new kind of usable energy.

This collaboration has utilized the versatility of 3-D printing with a longer-standing technology that is already being heavily relied upon to move us away from standard oil and gas consumption.

CSIRO has partnered with Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium and other groups in Australia to 3-D print and develop a new kind of ink to print flexible solar cells for use as solar panels. This new technology is so versatile that it can even be used to 3-D print solar cells on glass and plastic.

"The organic is an energy technology that has the potential to dramatically reduce the dependence on more traditional sources of electricity in developed countries such as Australia, and also provide a cheap, easily deployable source of electric power for remote regions beyond the reach of the grid in developing countries.

Unlike traditional electricity producing solar panels, organic cells offer the potential to allow printing directly onto materials such as roofing and windows, and therefore open intriguing building integrated design opportunities."

Can you image a skyscraper with windows that double as solar panels? Or a house? These buildings would literally be able to power themselves. It would be an environmentally clean and revolutionary way to live!

But there's more. The Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium hasn't limited their sights of using 3-D printable solar cells on just windows. They can print these energy-gathering cells on just about anything.

This new technology could also be used to cover laptop bags, smartphone cases and iPad covers and actually charge the devices they cover.

There's no word yet on when this technology will be available for the commercial market, but when it does it will completely change the way people power, heat and cool their homes.

Below is a picture of Dr. Scott Watkins, a scientist from the CSIRO materials department, holding up a sheet of flexible solar cells. It seems like the future is not so far off after all.

3d printed solar cells

What do you think? Would you use 3-D printable solar panels for your home? Let me know in the comments below.

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