The solar cells, about the size of a 12-point font letter ‘o,’ are being tested to eventually power microscopic machines, such as those used to test chemical leaks in the air.
The researchers at the University of South Florida say these are some of the smallest solar cells ever, with twenty aligning to form one panel at just one inch. Typical single cells are around two inches across on their own, and then form the large silicon panels we see on rooftops.[social_buttons]
A panel, made from a non-silicon organic polymer, is not quite powerful enough to run the tiny chemical sensor, which the researchers are using to test the device. However, it can already can act as a 7.8 volt source, easily enough for many common hand-held devices like cell phones or iPods.
Lead researcher Xiaomei Jiang said the array will be optimized for higher voltage by the end of the year.
“I think these materials have a lot more potential than traditional silicon,” said Jiang regarding the use of organic polymers rather than traditional silicon. “They could be sprayed on any surface that is exposed to sunlight—a uniform, a car, a house.”
The research was published today under as the “Fabrication of organic solar array for applications in microelectromechanical systems,” in the inaugural issue of The Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.