Lightweight, Flexible, Energy Efficient, Mass-Producible Solar Cells Now One Step Closer

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Flexible solar cells that are lightweight, energy efficient, and mass-producible are now one step closer to being a reality thanks to new research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Researchers at those universities devised a new way of creating large sheets of nanotextured, silicon micro-cell arrays — an important step towards the goal of said flexible, lightweight solar cells.

Debashis Chanda helped create large sheets of nanotextured, silicon micro-cell arrays that hold the promise of making solar cells lightweight, more efficient, bendable and easy to mass produce. Image Credit: UCF

The researchers created the new nanotextured sheets via the utilization of a light-trapping scheme “based on a nanoimprinting technique where a polymeric stamp mechanically emboss the nano-scale pattern on to the solar cell without involving further complex lithographic steps. This approach has led to the flexibility (that) researchers have been searching for, making the design ideal for mass manufacturing,” according to UCF assistant professor Debashis Chanda, of the Nanoscience Technology Center and the College of Optics and Photonics, and the lead researcher of the new study. Chanda has previously been the recipient of a Department of Energy solar innovation award, and a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council award, among others.

The University of Central Florida provides more:

Previously, scientists had suggested designs that showed greater absorption rates of sunlight, but how efficiently that sunlight was converted into electrical energy was unclear, Debashis said. This study demonstrates that the light-trapping scheme offers higher electrical efficiency in a lightweight, flexible module.

The team believes this technology could someday lead to solar-powered homes fueled by cells that are reliable and provide stored energy for hours without interruption.

The new findings are detailed in a paper published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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4 thoughts on “Lightweight, Flexible, Energy Efficient, Mass-Producible Solar Cells Now One Step Closer

  • No link! Tut tut. UCF press release here: They in turn don’t link to the journal article (what is the world coming to?); paywalled, but abstract here: The important number it gives, but is missing here and in the press release, is 8.5% efficiency. Very respectable for flexible thin-film. The production technique is mechanical, not doping with expensive rare elements, so it should work out cheap in mass production.

    The abstract does no mention the energy storage touted in the press release, so I reckon this just sloppy PR work. Any scientist who managed to build a battery into a solar cell would be trumpeting the miracle.

    • Batteries plus ultra capacitors, plus a couple VAWTs and a natural gas powered fuel cell for back up should make a home reliably independent of the grid. Rolled into the mortgage, it should pay off over the life of the home, but with no threat of downed power lines, black outs, brown outs, Enron-type scams, or terrorist attacks. What price, peace of mind?

      • Maybe so, but that’s not what these scientists are working on.

    • James, thanks for the links. Its interesting they only mention the storage capacity but not how they expect to achieve it. My guess is that they are planning on doing the same “printing” with some sort of battery type thingy(tech talk;-)

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