World’s Thinnest & Lightest Solar Cells Developed by MIT Researchers

MIT researchers have invented super-thin and flexible solar cells that can convert light energy from the sun to electricity. The findings are published in the journal Organic Electronics.

MIT researchers take to a new approach to develop solar cells that could help power the next generation of portable electronic devices. Photo credits: Reuters
The invention constitutes a new approach to developing solar cells that could help power the next generation of portable electronic devices. Photo credits: Reuters

The thinnest (one-fiftieth the thickness of a human hair) and lightest solar cells have been developed by MIT researchers. They can be used on any material, from clothes to smartphones. They are so light that they can even be placed on a soap bubble.

The new solar cells are said to have the capacity to power the next generation of portable electronic devices.

The cell includes a supporting substrate, and a protective coat. The former does not need handling or cleaning during manufacture such that the exposure to contaminants like dust is reduced to the minimum, thereby protecting the performance of the cell. Both the substrate and the overcoating are made of a flexible polymer (a plastic used in implanted biomedical devices) called parylene. Organic material known as DBP was used as the main light-absorbing layer.

The manufacturing process had to be done in a vacuum chamber at room temperature. No solvent was used as this would require conditions like hot temperatures and degrading chemicals.

While the solar cell is way too thin to be practical for use (it is one-thousandth the thickness of conventional cells used on glass substrates), parylene can be made into films of 80 microns to be placed on any commercial equipment.

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