Most used solar cells are thinner than a human hair.
MIT engineers have developed powerful solar technology that can go beyond your roof.
Newly developed solar cells can be attached to different parts, from the hull of a boat to the wings of a drone, and even the clothes on your back, providing power on the go. The new technology surpasses conventional solar panels in both size and capacity, with 18 times more power per hundred kilograms.
Research on this new phenomenon was presented Friday in an MIT press release. Vladimir Bulović, head of MIT’s Organic and Nanostructured Electronics Laboratory (ONE Lab) and lead author of a new paper describing the project, said in a statement that the technology is a response to the need for carbon-free energy.
“The criteria used to evaluate new solar cell technology are often limited to the efficiency of power conversion and their cost in dollars-per-watt. As important is the integration – the ease with which the new technology can be adjusted. The heavy layers of solar panels enable integration, giving energy to the current project,” said Bulović.
Low-cost technology packs a powerful punch for homeowners. Mayuran Saravanapavanantham, lead author on the paper, told MIT that to generate 8,000 watts of electricity, the typical amount of rooftop solar power in Massachusetts, the new panels would add about 44 pounds — total — to a house’s roof. For reference, the average weight of a solar panel is around 40 pounds.
Not only is the technology revolutionary, but the process of producing it, too – paper-thin cells can be completely printed using ink-based materials. They are made of a light but strong fabric called Dyneema.
“While it may be easier to just print the solar cells directly onto the fabric, this will limit the choice of possible fabrics or other acceptable surfaces to those that are chemically and thermally compatible with all the control measures and needed to manufacture the devices. Our approach removes the solar industry from the final assembly,” said Saravanapavanantham.
But the technology will not be installed on your roof – or sewn into your clothes – yet. The team is still looking for the right material to assemble the product that will protect it from the elements and be ultrathin.
“We are working to remove as many non-solar components as possible while still retaining the form and function of these ultralight and flexible solar systems,” said Jeremiah Mwaura, an author of the paper. , he explained to MIT.
Once the right materials are found, this solar industry has the potential to add energy and environmental benefits to everyday life.
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