We're used to seeing solar panels on buildings and solar powered calculators have been around for ages but what's in store for this type of technology as we enter 2013? Can it really provide the answer to our ever increasing energy demands whilst fossil fuel supplies run out?
The challenge around using thin-film solar cells (TFSCs) has been that many materials aren't suitable for the chemical process and the high temperature tolerance needed during manufacture. However, a report in the December issue of Nature.com's 'Scientific Reports' states that Standford University scientists have been able to develop a flexbile, reusable and peel-able solar cell that can be stuck to almost any surface.
Although there have been previous efforts to produce TFSCs on paper, textiles and rubber the end product was easily damaged due to it's fragility. Being able to successfully produce TFSCs that can be repeatedly used on heavily used items such as clothes or portable electronic supplies has been frustrating.
Chi Hwan Lee, the lead scientist on the project, noted that "Since the peel-and-stick process does not require any fabrication on the final target substrate, it circumvents all the fabrication challenges associated with these nonconventional substrates discussed above."
The scientific team, consisting of Chi Hwan Lee, Dong Rip Kim, In Sun Cho, Nemeth William, Qi Wang & Xiaolin Zheng, are confident that after removing the thermal release tape, only the TFSCs are left on the target substrates tested (cell phone, paper, metal foils & textiles).
Alternative power supplies are of immense importance as the world considers rapidly decreasing fossil fuel stocks. We have a number of science experiments to help further your education in Photovoltaics and would love to see the results of your experiments.