Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have printed lightweight solar cells, which can be scrunched up like an accordion yet still conduct electricity, onto untreated copy paper using a technique that could help to slash the cost of producing solar cells. “The team changed an ingredient in the material sandwich that makes up a solar cell. They used a flexible conducting polymer as the bottom electrode in the sandwich instead of a transparent metal oxide. The researchers constructed the solar cell using a dry fabrication process, depositing each layer as a vapour dispersed in a vacuum.”
What’s the Big Idea?
The glass or plastic backing typically used for solar cells accounts for 25 to 60 per cent of the total cost for materials and so lightweight paper-based cells could significantly reduce photovoltaic production, transportation and installation costs. At the moment, these paper solar cells are only about 1 per cent efficient. But that’s still enough to run small electronics like an alarm clock. A lightweight solar cell could be used for wallpaper or window shades and simply installed using staples or glue.