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Solar Cells

Scientists: Plastic Solar Cells Could be Hung on Wall Like Posters

What if you could walk into your local hardware store and buy a cheap solar panel to hang on your wall? That may not be such a far-fetched idea according to scientists at the UCLA Henri Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. A team of researchers has designed a new polymer (plastic) with greater sunlight absorption and conversion capabilities than any polymer seen before.

The key to the increased capabilities is the substitution of a silicon atom for a carbon atom in the backbone of the polymer. The substitution led the UCLA researchers to reach a 5.6 efficiency rate— an accomplishment for single-layer low-band-gap polymers.

Of course, other non-polymer solar cells have higher efficiency rates. But plastic has a distinct advantage—price. Polymers, which are already used in products such as pipes, insulators, and toys, are much cheaper to produce than silicon solar cells.

So it isn’t a complete pipe dream to think that you may be plastering solar cells all over any available surface in the next 5 to 10 years.

Photo Credit: UCLA

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was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.


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