These Solar Panels Are At Peak Efficiency When Not In The Sun

These Solar Panels Are At Peak Efficiency When Not In The Sun

Overcast weather is no match for these 3D-printed photovoltaic cells.

Ross Brooks
  • 19 march 2014

Even though conventional solar panels can still function well in overcast weather, British scientists at the National Physical Laboratory have created a new type of solar cell that thrives in overcast environments. What’s more impressive however, is that they are made from small organic molecules that can easily be dissolved into a solution and 3D printed into any shape, size, or color desired.

In direct sunlight, the solar panels achieve 10% efficiency, but that jumps to 13% hen conditions are more cloudy. Dr Fernando Castro, principal research scientist at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, explains:

Organic photovoltaics work much better in low and diffused light conditions. Even if it’s cloudy they still work. It’s not that they are going to produce more power but they are more efficient at generating power from the light that is available. So they would work better than normal soar cells do in cloud.

The team still has their work cut out for them, especially as the most efficient solar cells can harvest more than 40% of the energy from sunlight. Granted, these are rarely used in residential projects due to their prohibitive cost, but it gives you an idea of how 13% looks in the grand scheme of things.


Organic photovoltaic, as this particular technology is known, is perhaps most useful in terms of flexibility. It could be embedded into various devices that are used in remote area but require their own dedicated power source. Clothing, and other items with irregular shapes would also be prime candidates.

National Physical Laboratory

Source: 3D Print
Images: BASF – The Chemical Company, Oak Ridge National Laboratory


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