a typical crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells is expensive to produce- despite many advancements in the last few years, dealing with silicon is expensive and the payback time can be 14 – 20 years. so there’s been a lot of interest in recent years in creating better silicon systems, like thin film or solar tubes.
plextronics has created a complete alternative to silicon altogether- photovoltaic ink. instead of growing complex silicon crystals, pv cells are just printed on the mounting surface. not only is this process much cheaper, but pv ink is significantly lighter and more flexible than a conventional photovoltaic system. so while the range of printable surfaces are limited at this point, the possibilities of printable pv are pretty large- architectural glass, metal, even cloth seem like they could be incorporated in the future.
pv ink not just has the possibility to be a cheaper alternative to silicon pv, but it also has the potential of being incorporated into a vast array of architectural schemes and strategies- enhancing the architecture instead of shackling it to a bulky, rigid silicon panel.