Researchers have found a way to make flexible silicon solar cells using only 1 percent of the material used in conventional solar cells.
The cells are made of micron-sized silicon wires that are encased in a flexible polymer that can be rolled or bent. The researchers at Cal Tech who developed the cells eventually see them being used in clothing, but, for now, the cells could create cheaper and easier-to-install solar panels.
Large consumer electronic companies like Sharp have experimented with organic thin-film solar cells, which are flexible, but they're less efficient than those made with silicon. This breakthrough is the latest in a recent crop of studies combining the efficiency of silicon (about 15 to 20 percent efficiency) with the flexibility of the organic thin-film cells, but this one has the distinction of using only 1/100th of the amount of silicon per cell as a traditional silicon wafer.
An added bonus to this type of solar cell is that existing manufacturing technology could be used to make them, further helping to keep cost down.
written by John, February 16, 2010
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