MIT spinout Sistine Solar can print any image on photovoltaic cells

MIT has spunout a company called Sistine Solar that has developed a technology to print any kind of image on a skin that can be applied on solar panels.

Appearance is a major factor when it comes to the adoption of solar panels, as the conventional black solar panels interfere with the appearance and architecture of a building, widely believed to look ugly. Last year, Elon Musk addressed the problem by introducing solar panels that looked like regular roof shingles from the street, but appeared as conventional solar panels when viewed from the top, as the sun would see them.

MIT spinout Sistine Solar can print any image on photovoltaic cells

Elon Musk demonstrating his Solar Panel that blends in to the architecture. Image: Tesla.

MIT researchers have done even better. MIT has spunout a company called Sistine Solar that has developed a technology to print any kind of image on a skin that can be applied on solar panels, which change the appearance of the photovoltaic cells from all angles, without compromising on their capacity to generate electricity. Founded by the Sloan School of Management at MIT, Sistine Solar hopes to increase the adoption of clean energy with solar panels that mimic the surroundings or environment.


Image: Sistine Solar

Co-founder of Sistine Solar, Senthil Balasubramanian says, "If you look at the landscape today, less than 1 percent of US households have gone solar, so it’s nowhere near mass adoption. We think SolarSkin is going to catch on like wildfire. There is a tremendous desire by homeowners to cut utility bills, and solar is finding reception with them — and homeowners care a lot about aesthetics."


Image: Sistine Solar

The primary product of Sistine Solar is known as Solarskin. There are a number of patterns and colour options available, and users can pick any combination of the two. The patterns are shake-style shingle, three-tab shingle and Spanish tile. There are fourteen colour options available, including sand, slate, charcoal, farmhouse and oak. A custom print can be created by talking to the designers, where any kind of pattern can be printed, including forest camouflage, waves or a flag.

Image: Sistine Solar

Even a flag can be printed on the panels. Image: Sistine Solar

Sistine Solar offers a five year warranty on the skins, and a 25 year warranty on the power production capabilities of the panels. The Solarskin is available as a standalone product, and can be slapped onto existing solar panels. The exact technology used to create the coloured skins are not disclosed. Sistine Solar says that the panels are only ten percent more expensive than conventional products available in the market.

There are many innovative potential uses for the solar panels. Municipalities can use them to generate power for public infrastructure with panels that blend in to the surroundings. Hoardings can be self powered, and companies can print their own logos on them. Panels with changeable advertisements could be placed in bus shelters, and be used to charge cell phones, information kiosks and other devices. So far, Sistine Solar is the only company that makes a printable skin that can be integrated into existing solar infrastructure.

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