Energetic Photographs!

Science Fields

Charge your mobiles with your selfie…

A research group, including a Turkish Ph.D. student, succeeded in printing photographs which collect and store solar energy, using “photovoltaic” ink.

Led by Jann Halme of Finland’s Aalto University, Ghufran Hashmi doing post-doc work and electric-electronics engineer Merve Özkan (all pictured in the transparency shown above) employed the plastics-based, dye-sensitized organic (containing carbon-60 “fullerenes”) solar cell technology  (see: video) for use with ink jets to print texts and pictures.

When absorbed by ordinary inks, solar energy creates heat. But photovoltaic ink or dye converts part of that energy to electricity. Darker the color, higher is electrical efficiency; so the best photovoltaic cells are black. But the Aalto team, publishing the study in the journal Energy & Environmental Research, converted photovoltaic dyes to colored inkjets used in printers, making them suitable for imagery and graphic design. Thus the photovoltaic dye can be converted to various patterns and images through an image file and the degree of transparency in the dark and light areas in the images can be tuned, the researchers explain.

In a potentially more popular application, the technique may be used to print your own photographs both to decorate and charge a mobile device with sufficiently low energy consumption, the team points out. The technique also opens the door to energy-storing decorations and solar cells which can be integrated to buildings. 


  • 1. “Researchers printed energy-producing photographs”, Aalto University, 26 July 2016