The turn of millennium was accompanied by a new era in technology, wherein the bulky things started getting replaced by their slim, sleek and portable counterparts. Be it power-efficient flat screen televisions fitting into much smaller space than the conventional CRT televisions, the classic bulky telephones being replaced initially by the cordless and then by palm-sized mobile phones or now the smart-watches at your service as efficiently as your smartphone! Many such devices could shed-off their bulky feature, and now being around us in the slim, sleek, and super flexible avatar!
Still one domain is waiting for this transition to take place – the strongest contender in the renewable source of energy-the solar power panel prevailing with its rigid, heavy and bulky form. Currently silicon solar cells cover 95% of the solar cell market, owing to their highest reported power conversion efficiency- 30% of the sunlight is converted into electric power by the silicon solar cells. But the rigid, heavy and bulk nature is limiting its widespread application, especially in portable devices, vehicles, aircrafts etc.
But here’s some news from Stanford university, wherein researchers have successfully developed a slim, sleek and flexible solar panel material! This new avatar is made of ~0.2-micron thick transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) as the active component, which further has even thinner gold contacts, one atomic layer thick conducting graphene. This whole assembly is embedded inside anti-reflective, flexible polyimide which has higher light absorption capacity, resulting into a sleek 6-micron thin assembly. In other words, a pile of 15 such solar panels would still be thinner than a normal paper!
The story doesn’t end here! The TMDs being biocompatible, can be used as wearables-that come in contact with human skin. The bending tests have confirmed the flexibility and this version of TMDs based solar cells is performing twice better than their existing counterparts, converting almost 5 % of sunlight into electric power, which is predicted to reach 27% through some optimization. Kudos to the researchers and their consistent efforts for bringing this slim, sleek version of solar panel. It would be interesting to watch drones, aircrafts, wearable devices powered by the economic, super thin, light, and super-efficient piece this flexible gen-next solar panels.
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(Report source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-27195-7)