A team of Australian researchers from the CSIRO and the University of Melbourne has developed a solar panel that can be painted directly to any surface.


With help from the CSIRO, University of Melbourne PhD student Brandon MacDonald has worked out how to make solar cells so small they can be suspended in liquid, such as ink.


"We can then apply this ink onto a surface, so this could be glass or plastics or metals," Mr MacDonald told ABC’s AM.


"What we could do is actually integrate these into the building as it's being made, so you can imagine solar windows, or having it actually be part of the roofing material."


The solar panels will be made of nano-crystals which will have a total diameter of a few millionths of a millimetre.


"The problem with conventional solar cells, which are based on silicone and have been around for 60 years, is that they are quite efficient at converting sunlight to energy," he said.


"But in terms of making them it's a fairly costly and time-consuming process and so at the moment solar energy is more expensive than, say, coal or fossil fuels," he said.


"With these inks, and eventually trying to print the cells on a large scale, we hope that we'll make it so that this technology is cost-competitive with traditional energy sources."


Mr MacDonald hopes the new technology will be two to three times cheaper than solar cells currently on the market.


And he is hoping the print-on solar panel will be on the market in about five years.