Thin but efficient solar cells use one-tenth the silicon of conventional cells.
Conventional solar cells are bulky and rigid, but building lightweight, flexible cells has come with trade-offs in efficiency and robustness. A new method for making flexible arrays of tiny silicon solar cells could produce devices that don't suffer these trade-offs. Arrays of these microcells are as efficient as conventional solar panels and may be cheaper to manufacture because they use significantly less silicon. The tiny solar cells could be incorporated into, among other applications, window tinting, and they might be used to power a car's air conditioner and GPS.Researchers led by John Rogers, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champagne, used a combination of etching and transfer printing to create arrays of silicon cells that are one-tenth the thickness of conventional cells. They demonstrated multiple possible designs for solar panels incorporating the microcells, including dense arrays flexible enough to bend around a pencil....MORE