Ultra-Thin Solar Cells Set to Turn any Surface as Power Source

MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) engineers have created groundbreaking ultra-thin fabric solar cells that are set to turn any surface into a power source. The cells are durable, flexible, and much thinner than human hair, and when glued to a strong, lightweight fabric, they can swiftly get installed on a fixed surface.

When it comes to weight, they are one hundredth the weight of conventional solar panels and can generate 18 times more power per kilogram. The cells can provide energy – plus, they can pass as a wearable power fabric. Moreover, they can get transported and quickly deployed in remote locations for assistance in emergencies. They have the capacity to be easily scaled in the future to large-area manufacturing.

The facets of being thin and lightweight make the solar cells easy to be laminated onto many different surfaces. For instance, ultra-light solar technology can be seamlessly integrated into built environments with minimum installation requirements. Imagine the cells getting integrated into the sails of a boat and having the capacity to provide power while at sea. Furthermore, they can adhere to tents (and tarps) that are deployed in disaster recovery operations or even be applied onto the wings of drones to extend their flying range.

Vladimir Bulović, the Fariborz Maseeh Chair in Emerging Technology and the director of MIT.nano states that the metrics used to evaluate a new solar cell technology are typically restricted to one facet of their power conversion efficiency and another in terms of cost in dollars per watt. He added that the lightweight solar fabrics enable integrability and provide an impetus for the current work. They are striving to accelerate solar adoption, given the present urgent need to deploy new carbon-free sources of energy.

The research was published in Small Methods on December 9. The paper is co-authored by Bulović and Mayuran Saravanapavanantham, an electrical engineering and computer science graduate student at MIT, and Jeremiah Mwaura, a research scientist in the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics.

Ultimately, innovation can facilitate energy production in the future because the development of solar energy offers numerous community benefits in terms of resilience and the economy. Moreover, due to their compatibility, there may be a wide range of uses and applications for these solar cells in the future, all of which will contribute to human welfare efforts.