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Published online 19 December 2017
Scientists invent ultra-flexible solar cells to harness the sun’s energy.
Silicon is the most popular material for making solar cells. But the material is rigid and bulky and silicon-based solar cells end up losing their ability to absorb sunlight when the thickness of silicon is reduced.
Now, Muhammad Mustafa Hussain and his colleagues at the King Abduallah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia have come up with a clever ploy to get around this setback: creating ultra-flexible solar cells with corrugated structures.1
Like a wide-toothed comb, the thick segments of solar cells are separated by grooves in Hussain’s prototype. The grooves won’t generate current, but should make the solar cells flexible and lighter than their commercially available opposite numbers.
Even after being bent for 1000 cycles, the solar cells retained their efficiency to convert sunlight into electricity. They can be manipulated and twisted into zigzag and bifacial structures without compromising performance.
Using the solar cells, it was possible to power blue, yellow, green and red light-emitting diodes which the scientists used to power up a KAUST logo.
According to the scientists, the cells can also be used to turn on plant sensors to monitor the microclimate in an agricultural land. With a top power conversion efficacy of 18%, the solar cells are also potentially useful for powering drones, says Hussain.