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PARC redePARC redesigns printers to produce solar panels, batteriessigns printers to produce solar panels, batteries

They say inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. For a scientist at the Palo Alto Research Center, the Xerox-owned lab in Silicon Valley best known as PARC, it came from a tube of toothpaste.

The result is a new manufacturing method that can help make solar panels more efficient and increase the energy density of batteries.

It began when the lab was looking at ways it could use existing Xerox technology, like printing, in other areas. While watching the way the two or three materials help shape each other when they are squeezed through a toothpaste tube nozzle, an engineer had one of those “a-ha” moments.

By squeezing through a print nozzle a silver paste surrounded by a sacrificial material that would eventually get burned off, researchers found they were able to get a very fine silver line—and in electronics, any type of fine, conducting line is usually good.
Scott Elrod, PARCIDGNSScott Elrod, PARC lab director

The sacrificial material shapes the silver as it comes out of the nozzle so the resulting silver line is 50 microns wide and 30 microns high (a micron is a thousandth of a millimeter)—half the width and three times the height achieved when depositing silver on its own, said Scott Elrod , vice president and director of PARC’s hardware systems lab where the work is being done.

“So this is a solar cell,” said Elrod, showing a reporter a prototype made with the technology. The cell is covered with narrow grid lines that carry power but also lie on top of the photovoltaic material that converts light into electricity. Finer silver lines mean less of the solar cell’s surface is covered and that means more power can be generated.
More pcworld.com

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