Several months ago we wrote about Powering a Light With Saltwater as an example of the humanitarian capabilities of innovative, renewable energy. Now there is a new possibility of 3D printing solar to provide power in areas that currently have none.
Kyung-In Synthetic in Korea is currently developing this new idea of providing solar in remote areas that are currently without electricity. To make this even more impressive, they are looking to create the solar panels via 3D printing.
The rationale behind printing is that many of the areas they are looking to service are very difficult to access, for example, only accessible via small boat. This creates a logistical challenge to bring in equipment, hence where there is no power grid in many of these areas. The same logistical challenge also prevents standard solar panels from easily reaching these areas to provide free power.
Using 3D printing to overcome logistics is a new mindset that is being adopted by many companies and institutions. For instance, NASA is looking at the possibilities of 3D printing food and equipment in space in order to make launches more cost efficient.
However, The current iteration of these flexible 3D solar panels is currently facing challenges. In its current form, the printed solar panels are not particularly water proof, unlike current home solar, which can cause them to lose efficiency or become completely inoperable.
Another factor that is proving to be a challenge is cost. While the printed solar panels are relatively inexpensive to create, the 3D printer itself is extremely expensive. Currently, the expense per machine outweighs the efficiency of the printed panels, but over time they will become more and more viable.
Solar energy is revolutionizing how we generate power, not only on the commercial and residential front, but also the humanitarian one. With enough time, solar will bring power to the over 1 billion people that currently go without.