Printable solar cells could turn anything into an energy source.

A team at MIT has developed a process to ‘print’ solar cells onto almost any surface. Using chemical vapour deposition, the process uses “abundant organic molecules” to convert about 2 percent of the available energy into light. Typical solar panels are around 12-17% efficient, but the team thinks 10% efficiency is achievable.

The cost of installing panels keeps many people from adopting solar power, Barr says. By integrating it into ordinary materials, he thinks he can clear that hurdle. “You’re already hanging a curtain in your house,” he says. “Why not add some energy to that?”