European researchers have found a way to integrate printed electronics and photovoltaics to develop a new kind of solar transistor, ultra-thin yet powerful enough to operate 'smart' windows, clothing and ever-smaller electronic devices. No batteries required!
© File: #124356375 | Author: tantawat, 2018 fotolia.com
Traditional transistors, the building blocks of electronic circuits, are too bulky and power-intensive for many would-be applications. New low-cost, high-current alternatives are needed. Printing them on long rolls like a newspaper press is possible but they still need outside power sources, and performance can be poor.
The EU-funded HCAPT has developed a new kind of high-performing transistor printed on electrochromic organic sheets a continuous roll of foil mixed with polymer solar cells. This, the project team says, paves the way for intelligent windows operating without the need for batteries. For example, office windows with built-in sensors can automatically adjust how much light is allowed in.
Apps on a roll
Such clever windows are just one application for this sort of self-powered sheet with printed electronics. Other possibilities include clothing with pliable integrated electronics or sensors reading the wearers heart rate, for example, or functional organic sheets as low-cost sensors for bio-testing samples.
The project has shown that one square metre of an electrochromic sheet can be powered by a 5 cm strip made of printed solar cells and transistors along the bottom, and that all the components can be manufactured during the same roll-to-roll printing processes.
The Marie Skłodowska-Curie projects work and technology has been described in several international journals and at major conferences. Working examples and cases are now being developed to demonstrate real-life applications for the technology. The projects approach is captured well in a short video.