Oregon State University researchers have come up with a technology similar to that commonly used to print documents and photos. They say their method is quicker and less expensive than traditional solar cell manufacturing techniques. It could also reduce raw material waste by 90%, they add. As people move away from conventional combustion-type technologies, more attention is paid to renewable energy types, and solar energy is one of them. It is known as a clean and sustainable form of energy, but this is offset by the manufacture of solar panels which is an expensive and complicated process. Finding a balance between costs of production and efficiency could become key to future manufacture of solar cells, and many scientists around the world have been concentrating on developing new materials and methods to do that. The recent inkjet approach is one of those novel methods.One should always be wary of confusing press releases for news items, or mistaking hopes for facts upon which further claims are then extrapolated, in the usual manner of futurological discourse (not to mention mainstream advertising and marketing hyperbole of which I take futurology merely to be an amplified variation, sometimes a variation amplified into a form of quasi-theology -- about which I say more here and much more here, and in a way that emphasizes environmental problems here, and in the form of aphorisms here, should you be inclined to pursue this critique of mine which so preoccupies me).
Not to put too fine a point on it, promising possibilities are not yet factual assertions, and should not be so treated, whether they arrive from grant-hungry labs in public Universities or investment-hungry companies like Pythagoras Solar here in San Mateo, California, which recently claims to have "developed a window laced with solar cells, a window that generates and saves electricity at the same time" (something I've been reading about the promise of since I was reading OMNI magazine as a teen-ager, by the way).
I notice that this Oregon State University report indicates that the new manufacturing process has so far managed to produce solar panels of five percent efficiency and that they are hoping to improve that efficiency to twelve percent, hoping that commercial viability with the fifteen-to-eighteen percent efficiency of conventionally manufactured silicon-based rooftop solar panels can result through tradeoffs in the eventual ease of manufacturing and comparatively greater plenitude of needed materials for the new process. That said, the materials involved include copper, indium, gallium, and selenium in any case, and it pays to recall that the problem of resource descent is not confined to Peak Oil and aquifer depletion but involves many high-tech metals as well.
All of this seems to me likely to involve a whole lot of patient difficult work and no small amount of luck over timescales that should keep our focus on already available renewable energy technologies for now (conventional rooftop solar panels, wing-turbines, geo-thermal systems, and so on) and not go off half-cocked with the usual loud-mouthed wide-eyed futurological handwaving, especially to the extent that this would function as usual to distract us from urgent realities by means of indefinite hyperbolic hopes usually cashing out mostly in self-promotion for the ones indulging in the distraction.
Yes, I, too, would like to think that cheap efficient ink-jetted solar panels will soon be affixed to LEEDS-retrofitted skyscrapers soaking up energy to run their computer grids and air-conditioning while expelling from Art Deco zeppelin tethers a thin wholesome exhalation of water vapor amidst rooftop gardens plumped with organic vegetables amidst the buzz of bees. I don't think it is ridiculous in the least to hope for such things, or to find one's measure of hope renewed by reading popular technoscience journalism. Hell, I'm as green and as geek as the next faggot in organic boxer-briefs. I am far from pointing to these article to dash people's hopes, but just to forestall our waxing futurological upon hopeful contact with them, to caution against reading them less as news items than as stepping stones along the blazing trail to "The Future," as oracular pronouncements reassuring us Santa's cornucopia-nanofactories and geo-engineering weather-machines and watchful machines of loving grace are all on the way.
Setting aside this sort of promotional and self-promotional hype of the pop-tech gurus who would be the priestly elect peddling corporate-military competition to the masses to the benefit of incubent elites, articles like these provide indispensable reminders that in places where science is still respected and real shared problems still inspire real shared effort, in places where the parochial profit-taking, science-denialism, and magical-thinking of people who vote for Republicans do not yet prevail to the ruin of all, our collaborative intelligence is in some precincts still directed to the service of general welfare.
Against the hysterical denial of the GOP-greedheads and the hyperbolic distraction of the Futurological Congress, there is plenty of evidence of real folks at real work solving real problems.