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Green Energy Gets an Upgrade

Meet the physicist behind the newest method of solar energy production.

By: Bridget Schneider

Big changes in green energy are on the horizon, thanks to Polish physicist Olga Malinkiewicz, perovskite cells and an ingenious inkjet processing method.

Poised to transform the production of solar energy, Malinkiewicz has made headlines with her revolutionary technique in producing solar panels that function under far lower temperatures than we are previously used to, and are flexible and thus adaptable to a myriad of surfaces. Not only can these panels be attached to nearly anything in need of electricity—be it a car, drone or cell phone—they are significantly reduced in cost due to the simplicity of their production.

While perovskite cells were discovered in the 1830s, it was only 10 years ago that Japanese researcher Tsutomu Miyasaka identified that this class of minerals can form photovoltaic solar cells. The science behind the process began, slowly and steadily, but was complex and required sky high temperatures, which limited the surfaces that could successfully host the cells.

In 2013, Malinkiewicz threw a wrench into the system when she discovered a way to coat a flexible foil with the perovskite cells through an evaporation method, which led her to the development of an inkjet printing procedure that allowed for the mass production of these wafer-thin panels. Deemed a “bullseye” by Malinkiewicz, the new system means not only is production economically practical, it will allow panels to be attached to a wide variety of surfaces, indoors and out.

This is a game-changer in many ways, but particularly in the way it will revolutionize building energy. The amount of electricity needed to power a building is often astronomical—this paired with the fact that whatever a building’s source of energy is, it needs not compromise the architectural integrity of the structure, makes finding a suitable method rather difficult. With the inkjet processing method of perovskites, a structure made of any material, with any design, can easily be coated in Malinkiewicz’s panels, which will satisfy the building’s energy needs, no matter the weather and at an incredibly low cost.

According to estimates reported by The Japan Times, “A standard panel of around 1.3 square meters, at a projected cost of $57, would supply a day’s worth of energy to an office workstation.

The innovation is undeniably an exciting one, but the creators are still in the process of testing the method and developing techniques for mass production. Malinkiewicz and her team, who were building all of their equipment from scratch before an investor joined, have begun work in a state-of-the-art laboratory where they are developing an industrial-scale production site. The first of its kind, the developed production line will serve as a model for the future of the technology.

Perovskite technology is currently being tested by Swedish construction group Skanska on a building in Warsaw, Poland, as well as on a hotel outside of Nagasaki, Japan.

The potential for Malinkiewicz’s inkjet processing method is immeasurable, as we are certainly looking toward a greener future.

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