Thursday, December 29, 2022

MIT researchers create solar cells that are so thin they may be used as a power source on any surface

An ultrathin solar cell made by MIT researchers is 18 times lighter per watt produced than conventional silicon photovoltaic solar panels.

An extremely thin and light solar cell has been developed by MIT researchers and can be used to convert nearly any surface into a solar power source. In order to facilitate their installation on any fixed surface, the flexible solar cells are glued to a lightweight fabric that is much thinner than human hair.

“Our current lightweight photovoltaic (PV) cells are significantly lighter, but they are not as efficient at converting power as silicon PVs. “They would not be used to replace conventional silicon PV installations in the short term, but rather to provide power in areas where silicon PVs cannot be easily installed,” Vladimir Bulovi, the lead author of the study's article that was published in the journal Small Methods, told via email.

For instance, they can be utilized to transport solar electricity to remote locations. Our PV modules can be easily transported to and installed in remote villages because they are 18 times lighter per Watt produced than silicon PV modules. We anticipate that our technology will eventually achieve the same efficiency levels as silicon photovoltaics. Bulovic added, "At that point, our flexible PV modules can be thought of as a replacement for silicon PVs."

Making the super dainty sun powered cells

The scientists utilized nanomaterials in printable electronic inks to make this original sun oriented cell gadget. A substrate with a thickness of just 3 microns was coated with electronic materials using a "slot-die coater." They then, at that point, utilized a screen printing strategy to print a cathode and store on the substrate to finish the sun based cell. The printed module is approximately 15 microns thick at this point, and researchers can remove the plastic substrate to obtain the device. Human hair, by contrast, is approximately 70 microns thick on average.

But working with this ultra-thin freestanding module is hard because it can easily be torn or damaged in other ways. The researchers turned to Dyneema, a special kind of fabric that only uses 13 grams per square meter, as a solution to this issue.

The fabric's fibers are so strong, according to MIT, that they were used as ropes to rescue a sunken cruise ship from the Mediterranean Sea. A UV-curable glue was used to stick the solar panel to this material, resulting in a structure that is extremely light and long-lasting and can be used for a variety of things.

Future research, durability, and versatility Conventional photovoltaic solar cells are fragile, so they are protected by thick glass and metal frames. Because of this, the locations in which such solar cells can be set up and used are severely restricted. Because of this, developing such adaptable ultra-thin solar cells has rekindled interest. For instance, Dartmouth researchers came up with a novel flexographic printing method earlier this year for depositing perovskite solar cells on almost any material.

The MIT researchers tested how long the new devices would last, and they found that even after the fabric was rolled and unrolled more than 500 times, the cells kept more than 90% of their initial power generation capabilities. However, in order to shield them from the elements, they would still need to be enclosed in another material.

According to, further research would be required to strengthen these cells. Bulovi stated, "We are developing lightweight packaging technology that would allow us to maintain the format of the current PV and would be mechanically robust and flexible."

The researchers envision numerous applications for the material once the packaging technology is developed. It can, for instance, be mounted on a boat's sails to provide power while sailing. It can also be used to extend the range of drones and tents and tarps used in disaster recovery operations.

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