A lightweight, silicon-based solar cell that can be installed on curved surfaces such as fabrics could be used for a broad range of applications. A paper online this week in Nature Materials describes the new device, one of the most efficient flexible solar cells designed so far.
In earlier designs, flexible solar cells were either made from inefficient organic materials or used thick inorganic films, for example of silicon, which had limited flexibility. John Rogers and colleagues make use of a transfer printing approach, where ultrathin, and therefore highly pliable, silicon components are lifted from a silicon wafer and transferred onto a polymer substrate, to make centimetre-scale solar cells. This approach combines the benefits of flexibility with the good light-absorption of silicon. The transfer printing technique itself is versatile and could be applied to a broad range of materials and device designs.