UK researchers print renewable solar panels onto wallpaper

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In the United Kingdom, a team of researchers from Imperial College London’s department of chemical engineering have developed wallpaper that generates electricity and monitors the air quality in the home.

The team, led by Dr. Marin Sawa, used an inkjet printer to print cyanobacteria and electrically conductive carbon nanotubes onto wallpaper. Not only did the cyanobacteria survive the printing process, but the they were able to perform photosynthesis and even produce small amounts of electricity.

The researchers say the work demonstrates that printable, biodegradable circuits and sensors are viable.

“We think our technology could have a range of applications such as acting as a sensor in the environment,” says Sawa. “Imagine a paper-based, disposable environmental sensor disguised as wallpaper, which could monitor air quality in the home. When it has done its job it could be removed and left to biodegrade in the garden without any impact on the environment.”

However, the low power output of such microbial biophotovoltaics limits their use to devices that require small amounts of energy. “Paper-based BPVs are not meant to replace conventional solar cell technology for large-scale power production, but instead, could be used to construct power supplies that are both disposable and biodegradable,” says co-author Andrea Fantuzzi.