Ultrathin, Ultra-Tiny Solar Cells Fit for Your T-Shirt?

ultrathin ultra small solar panels photo
Photos via the NY Times

The North Carolina company Semprius is looking to produce what may be some of the tiniest solar cells ever made. Borne out of research by Illinois University professor John A. Rogers, the cells will be smaller than one-tenth the thickness of conventional panels and flexible enough to attach to fabric and plastics. According to the New York Times, Semprius plans on pioneering the use of solar cells in a slew of places never thought practical before: sunroofs of cars, awnings--even your t-shirt.ultrathin-solar-panels-machine.JPG

From the NY Times:

The new technology is the work of a researcher and his colleagues who developed a way to print ultrathin, semitransparent and flexible cells on plastic, cloth and other materials. If the technology succeeds, it may provide the solar industry with alternatives to the fixed installations that are common today: cells may be printed on plastic rolls that could be unfurled for dozens of uses, or stamped onto fabric for T-shirts or other clothes that collect energy while worn.

ultrathin solar shirt photo
Traditional silicon solar cells are rigid, heavy and opaque, but they dominate the technology because they are very reliable and efficient, he said, and because silicon is abundant. Still, the brittleness of silicon limits its uses. Dr. Rogers "has figured out how to grab thin layers of silicon or other inorganics, and put them on whatever substrates you want," Dr. Javey said.

ultrathin solar panels photo
The cells are so flexible that dense arrays of them can be wrapped tightly around a pencil or pen.

The new technology could open a world of possibilities for solar power--such versatility is all but unmatched right now.

More on Ultrathin Solar Cells
Flexible, Ultra-Thin Solar Panels for Hybrids by Solatec
Super-Thin Solar Cells Developed for Nanoelectronics

Tags: Alternative Energy | Economics | Renewable Energy | Solar Power

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