A group of MIT professors and students from the Eni-MIT Alliance Solar Frontiers Program have created a new process for printing solar cells on materials as diverse as PET plastic and paper. The outcome is resilient enough to withstand folding and unfolding 1000 times! Read more about it here and check the video after the jump.
It is, to be sure, a bit more complex than just printing out a term paper. In order to create an array of photovoltaic cells on the paper, five layers of material need to be deposited onto the same sheet of paper in successive passes, using a mask (also made of paper) to form the patterns of cells on the surface. And the process has to take place in a vacuum chamber.
The basic process is essentially the same as the one used to make the silvery lining in your bag of potato chips: a vapor-deposition process that can be carried out inexpensively on a vast commercial scale.