Plastic solar panels could be commercially viable in five to ten years. Researchers from Sheffield and Cambridge Universities are working on a print-process, in which two different light-sensitive substances separate into layers of positive and negative conductors and form an electric circuit when a plastic film sets.
Most solar panels currently comprise cells made from sliced, ultra-pure silicon, so making them out of plastic could dramatically reduce costs.
A printing press process would also mean solar panels could be made in much larger volumes.
Installed global solar PV is growing quickly in response to incentives to find low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels.