Differentiating from traditional solar panels, thin and flexible thin-film solar panels are capable in additional application possibilities, and can be applied on various irregular and curved surfaces. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has now developed a solar cell that is even thinner than a hair, which can be used from ePaper to lightweight wearables.
MIT had adopted the research of 2016 as the foundation, when the ultra-lightweight solar panel was so light that it would not break a bubble when placed on top of the latter. With that being said, the production technology of solar cells is involved with a vacuum environment and exorbitant chemical vapor deposition, and MIT has used ink and printing this time to simplify the process.
This type of semiconducting ink can be deposited along with printed electrodes on a 3µm thick plastic sheet that would eventually form a solar panel, or strip apart the module before sticking it onto textile materials that can retain tenacity and the minimum weight.
Scientists had eventually developed an ultra-soft and lightweight solar cell that is 1% the weight of traditional solar panels, though it is capable of emitting 18 times more power than traditional solar panels at 730W each kg. The solar cell, when stuck onto garments, can generate 370W of power each kg. Co-lead author Mayuran Saravanapavanantham commented that rooftop solar installations are usually 8,000W in Massachusetts, and that the textile solar panel developed by the team would only add an extra 20kg with the same level of power generation.
The new test also pointed out that the textile solar cell can be folded and unfolded for more than 500 times whilst retaining 90% of power-generation capability. However, the team is currently resolving the degradation issue of solar cells, and is required to develop an ultra-thin packaging that is able to protect the cells.
Jeremiah Mwaura, research scientist at Research Laboratory of Electronics, pointed out that traditional silicon solar cells would need to be encapsulated within a thick layer of glass, while the ultra-thin solution proposed by the team would only add a little extra weight.
(Cover photo source: MIT)