Scientists have created the thinnest, lightest solar power cells yet — so lightweight that they can be draped on pinnacle of a soap bubble with out popping it.
The researchers cautioned that these ultrathin sun cells may be positioned on nearly any stable floor, inclusive of fabric, paper and glass.
solar cells, technically called photovoltaic cells, immediately convert power from mild into electricity. the new solar cells are as small as 1.3 microns thick. In assessment, the average human hair is set one hundred microns thick.
the new gadgets are also superlightweight, weighing simplest approximately 0.01 lbs. according to rectangular backyard (three.6 grams in step with rectangular meter). In comparison, traditional piece of workplace paper weighs approximately 20 times more. [Top 10 Inventions That Changed the World]
The concept to drape a sun mobile on top of a soap bubble got here because "we wanted humans to peer how skinny this solar cellular become, however you can not inform the distinction among a ten-micron and a 1-micron film via eye," stated have a look at lead creator Joel Jean, an electrical engineer on the Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT). "My lab mate Patrick Brown suggested floating the cell on a bubble to make the burden distinction an awful lot more dramatic, so I tried it. My first reaction to seeing it was possibly lots like yours — 'Cool!'"
the brand new sun cells convert light to power with about the same efficiency as traditional, glass-based sun cells, the researchers said. "it is unusual for bendy cells to perform as well as inflexible cells on glass," Jean advised live technology.
in addition, the power-to-weight ratio of the new devices is some of the maximum ever finished for sun cells. this is key to packages wherein weight is essential, along with on spacecraft or on excessive-altitude research balloons, the researchers said.
traditional silicon-based solar modules produce about 6.eight watts in keeping with lb. (15 watts consistent with kilogram), however these new devices can generate extra than 2,720 watts consistent with lb. (6 watts in step with gram), or about 400 instances as a lot.
"it may be so mild that you do not even know it's there, on your blouse or to your pocket book," observe senior writer Vladimir Bulović, an electrical engineer at MIT, stated in a declaration. "those cells may want to truely be an upload-directly to current structures."
the new cells use an natural compound called DBP as their number one light-soaking up cloth. The solar cells are sandwiched between layers of parylene, a commercially available, flexible, transparent plastic that is widely used to guard circuit boards and implanted biomedical gadgets from environmental damage.
The solar cells and their parylene supports and coatings are fabricated in a vacuum chamber at room temperature without using any solvents, the scientists stated. In contrast, traditional solar-cell manufacturing calls for high temperatures and vicious chemical compounds. [Top 10 Craziest Environmental Ideas]
The solar cells and the parylene are grown together. The parylene by no means needs to be handled, cleaned or eliminated from the vacuum throughout fabrication, which minimizes publicity to dirt and different contaminants that would degrade the overall performance of the sun cells, according to the researchers.
The scientists stated that the solar mobile they created to sit atop a soap bubble might be too thin to be sensible — an errant breath should blow it away, they stated. "it is, of path, only for display, however we assume it makes for a great display," Jean said.
The researchers mentioned they might easily fabricate parylene films up to 80 microns thick the usage of industrial gadget with out dropping the opposite benefits of their production technique.
"the usage of this method, you could imagine laminating lightweight or maybe invisible sun cells onto windows or other strong surfaces for building- and device-integrated electronics," Jean said. "a better consumer product may use those cells laminated onto a traditional flexible plastic sheet, which you can convey round with you for portable electricity."
The researchers noted their fabrication method can use an expansion of photovoltaic materials past those they have got confirmed to this point. "A more efficient photovoltaic generation could reach even better power-to-weight ratios than the 6 watts according to gram that we showed on this first demonstration," Jean said.
The MIT team's ultrathin solar cells are almost an order of magnitude thinner and lighter than the previous record holder, stated Max Shtein, a substances scientist on the university of Michigan at Ann Arbor, who become now not involved in this work, stated in a announcement. As a result, he mentioned that this research "has outstanding implications for maximizing electricity-to-weight [ratios] — critical for aerospace applications, as an instance — and for the capability to without a doubt laminate photovoltaic cells onto existing structures."
it is not yet recognized when these solar cells might be commercially available, "but a fashionable rule of thumb is that it takes a decade for a era to move from research lab to market," Jean said. some of the principle demanding situations in scaling up this method for commercial use would possibly include growing an included system for high-throughput manufacturing — as an instance, roll-to-roll processing — growing the deposition pace, and figuring out programs wherein an ultralight and bendy cell might provide some precise fee to the user."