Researchers at the University of South Florida have developed solar cells that are one-fourth the size of a grain of rice. When 20 of them are grouped together in an array, they can generate about 7.8 volts of electricity.
While 7.8 volts doesn't sound like much, the potential applications for these tiny cells are pretty cool. The cells are made of an organic polymer that can be dissolved or applied to flexible materials instead of the usual brittle silicon wafers. This flexibility plus their small size would allow them to be sprayed or painted onto surfaces like houses, cars, clothing or anything that is exposed to sunlight.
Head researcher Xiaomei Jiang is working towards one use in particular for these tiny arrays: powering microscopic chemical sensors for soldiers in the field. Batteries are heavy for soldiers to carry and they also cost the military about $57,000 per soldier per year. Having a small, renewable source of power for these types of devices would be in the military and the soldiers' interests.
Jiang is currently working to double the electricity output of these cells, hopefully enough to power the chemical sensors. He believes this is possible within months.
via Wired and Reuters
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