Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University have developed a new type of silicon solar cell that is flexible enough to be used on a curved surface or fabric. Currently, most solar cells are rigid due to the use of plastic in their production.
The flexible solar cells are produced by slicing rigid silicon wafers into tiny bits and placing them on a flexible surface. The sliced chips are 10 to 100 times thinner than a normal silicon wafer.
Unlike thin-film solar cells already produced by Sharp and Q-Cells, the new technology uses highly efficient single crystal silicon.
The technology’s inventors envision a variety of uses for flexible solar cells. The cells could be used as a solar skin on top of buildings or aircraft, as large rollable sheets, or even as a tinting film on sunroofs.
There’s just one problem— scientists haven’t yet figured out if the increased production costs of the cells are outweighed by the use of less material.
Either way, the advent of the new solar cells shows that a little creativity can greatly enhance existing technology.
Photo credit: Energy Efficiency News