Super-Thin Solar Cell

thincell

Solar energy will very likely be the main source of power as the world continues to strive toward greater sustainability. But it won’t be just the large panels that get the job done. In fact, I’m willing to bet that ultra thin and flexible solar cells that can be attached to virtually any surface will be the future. Which is why breakthroughs in this area are so important. And now a team of South Korea scientists has successfully created a super thin solar cell, which is so flexible it can be wrapped around a pencil without causing damage or too much strain to it.

The solar PV cell that they created is one micrometer thick (which is even thinner than a human hair) and it is this thinness that gives it the extreme flexibility it boasts of. It is made from a semiconductor gallium arsenide, which is stamped onto a flexible metal substrate. No adhesive is used in this process, instead it is fused with the electrode on the substrate with a cold welding process that involves applying pressure at 170 degrees Celsius. And the metal layer also acts as a reflector that directs light back onto the cell.

Testing the limits of the cell’s flexibility they found that it can be bent around an object with a radius of 1.4 millimeters. Despite their thinness, the solar cells have an energy conversion efficiency comparable to thicker ones. They also exhibited only one quarter of the strain from the bending compared to a 3.5 micrometers thick cell.

The real-world application of this type of cell would be far-ranging. It could be used on smartphones, fabric, and smart glasses, while it could also easily be integrated into self-powered devices, such as, for example, environmental sensors located in hard to reach places.

There is no definitive word yet on when and if they plan to bring this cell to market.

Super-Thin Solar Cell

thincell

Solar energy will very likely be the main source of power as the world continues to strive toward greater sustainability. But it won’t be just the large panels that get the job done. In fact, I’m willing to bet that ultra thin and flexible solar cells that can be attached to virtually any surface will be the future. Which is why breakthroughs in this area are so important. And now a team of South Korea scientists has successfully created a super thin solar cell, which is so flexible it can be wrapped around a pencil without causing damage or too much strain to it.

The solar PV cell that they created is one micrometer thick (which is even thinner than a human hair) and it is this thinness that gives it the extreme flexibility it boasts of. It is made from a semiconductor gallium arsenide, which is stamped onto a flexible metal substrate. No adhesive is used in this process, instead it is fused with the electrode on the substrate with a cold welding process that involves applying pressure at 170 degrees Celsius. And the metal layer also acts as a reflector that directs light back onto the cell.

Testing the limits of the cell’s flexibility they found that it can be bent around an object with a radius of 1.4 millimeters. Despite their thinness, the solar cells have an energy conversion efficiency comparable to thicker ones. They also exhibited only one quarter of the strain from the bending compared to a 3.5 micrometers thick cell.

The real-world application of this type of cell would be far-ranging. It could be used on smartphones, fabric, and smart glasses, while it could also easily be integrated into self-powered devices, such as, for example, environmental sensors located in hard to reach places.

There is no definitive word yet on when and if they plan to bring this cell to market.

Solar Cell and Battery in One

battery

In October 2014, a team of scientists from Ohio State University revealed their design for a dye-sensitized solar cell that is able to store its own power. Now, they have reached a new milestone in that they have created a device, which fits a battery and solar cell into one. They have tested it against traditional lithium-iodine batteries and their findings reveal an energy savings of 20 percent.

The original battery was made up of three electrodes as opposed to four as is the case with a typical battery. It also featured a lithium plate base, and two layers of electrode separated by a thin sheet of porous carbon, as well as a titanium gauze mesh, which contains the dye-sensitive titanium dioxide photoelectrode.

battery2

The porous nature of the materials used to construct the battery enables the ions to oxidize into lithium peroxide. This is then chemically decomposed into lithium ions and stored as lithium metal. The researchers have now redesigned the battery and made it so that air no longer needs to pass through it for it to work.

The first version of the battery contained a conventional liquid electrolyte made up of salt and a solvent of perchlorate mixed with organic solvent dimethyl sulfoxide. They have now replaced this with water as the solvent and lithium iodide as the salt. This enables low-cost and high-energy storage capabilities. The final result is a water-based electrolyte and the new prototype battery is now classed as an aqueous flow battery.

cell

Because it no longer needs air to pass through it, a solar panel can now be placed on top of it, which creates a single solid sheet. This still holds the dye-sensitized solar cells that the original battery did, for which the researchers used a red dye called ruthenium that can tune the wavelength of the light it captures.

To compare the performance of the new battery against the traditional lithium-iodine battery, the team tested it by charging and discharging them 25 times. The batteries released around 3.3 volts with each discharge. However, the new solar battery only needed to be charged to 2.9 volts to release the 3.3 volts, while the traditional battery had to be charged to 3.6 volts to discharge the same amount of voltage.

Needless to say, there is a big market for a battery that can both produce and store power. The researchers are currently still in the process of refining the design, and hope to one day bring it to market.

Related Articles on JetsonGreen.com:
Scientists Combine Solar Cell and Battery into a Single Highly Efficient Package
MIT Researchers Develop A More Efficient Battery
Car Tires Recycled into More Efficient Anodes for Batteries