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Researchers Develop World’s Thinnest and Lightest Solar Cells

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Published on : Apr 22, 2016

The ongoing research and development in the field of solar power has led to several innovations and technological advancements in the field of power efficiency, reduction in size, weight and cost, and flexibility of solar cells. The cumulative impact of these factors has been seen in the form of an increased level of adoption by consumers and a continuous rise in the range of applications that can utilize solar cells worldwide.

In the global solar cell market that is awash with innovations and technological developments, a new innovation is set to revolutionize the overall face of the global solar cell market, by making it much more sophisticated. A group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created the world’s lightest and thinnest solar power cells. The cells are so lightweight that they can be put on the top of a soap bubble without it being popped.

The researchers state that these novel ultrathin cells can be placed on almost any kind of solid surface, such as paper, glass, fabric, or other materials.

The cells, which are about 1.3 microns thick (just a fraction of thickness of an average human hair, which is about 100 microns thick), have demonstrated efficiency of converting light to electricity comparable to that of conventional solar cells. Owing to low weight of the cell, their power-to-weight ratio is also amongst the highest that has even been achieved for solar cells so far. This will make these cells highly significant in applications where the weight of power generating devices is a crucial factor that determines the success of an operation, such as spacecraft.

The cells have been made from an organic compound called DBS as the primary photovoltaic substance. The scientists sandwiched the solar cells between layers of parylene, a transparent, flexible and commercially available plastic that is widely used for protecting biomedical implants and circuit boards from damage due to a variety of environmental factors.

However, there is one concern regarding the practical application is that they can blow away even with an errant breath. Nevertheless, the discovery has tremendous appeal for applications that require maximum power-to-weight ratios and will find several new applications once it is commercially available.