New Less Expensive Wafer Thin Solar Cells Could Make Going Green More Practical

May 2, 2009

(ChattahBox)—Traditional bulky solar panels using thick semiconductor slabs of silicon may soon be a thing of the past, as new technology allows the stamp printing of wafer-thin solar cells on flexible materials, such as fabric and plastic. The new solar cells are so thin they are semi-transparent, as well as extremely flexible and the new applications for such a lightweight energy source are endless, according to a new piece by the New York Times.

The novel solar cell printing technology was developed by lead researcher, John A. Rogers, professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois. Rogers and his team looked at traditional photovoltaic cell technology and turned it on its head.

Photovoltaic cells or solar cells need a dependable and plentiful semiconductor material, like silicon to efficiently convert solar energy into electricity. The downside of silicon is that it’s heavy and inflexible. Rogers solved this problem by developing a new fabrication process that creates very thin slices of silicon, which are a tenth the thickness of standard semiconductors.

Rogers didn’t just stop there. He also developed a new method of stamp-printing the tiny, ultra-thin solar cells on flexible materials, such as plastic and textiles. The tiny, semi-transparent solar cells can be printed on any type of substrate film or material.

The greatest contribution of Rogers’ new semiconductor fabrication and printing process, may be the means to finally allow the inexpensive, mass production of solar cell modules, panels and arrays. Standard production of photovoltaic cells is cost prohibitive for everyday use in our homes and automobiles, but that is about to change.

Rogers’ licensed the technology to Semprius, a semiconductor company in Durham, N.C., that plans to manufacture making solar modules within the next year. Automakers have contacted Semprius to produce the new solar modules for car sunroofs. Other applications considered are drapes, awnings and even tinted windows coated with the thin solar cells, powering up a green home.

The wafer thin semiconductors and an automated stamp printing process should significantly reduce the current costs of solar production, making it available to everyday consumers.

Someday soon, we could have inexpensive, energy producing solar cells mass printed on our t-shirts, collecting energy as we take a walk on a sunny day.



3 Responses to “New Less Expensive Wafer Thin Solar Cells Could Make Going Green More Practical”

  1. Twitted by greenshop on May 5th, 2009 4:15 am

    […] This post was Twitted by greenshop – […]

  2. greenie girl on May 14th, 2009 9:32 pm

    I’m likeing the idea of the tee shirt collecting the rays for us…

  3. mr solar energy on July 1st, 2009 8:47 am

    It certainly looks much better than some of the awful solar clothing I’ve seen in the past

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