Applied Physics

Unfolding the Power of Solar

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Science  08 Aug 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5890, pp. 746
DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5890.746b

Thin-film photovoltaics, such as those based on amorphous silicon or organic films, can be deposited over large areas and so offer the potential to provide a cheap power source that harnesses the free energy from the Sun in which we bask. Combined with the ease of deposition onto flexible substrates, these films also offer the possibility of a lightweight portable power source suited to installation in remote areas. However, the conversion efficiency of such solar cells is relatively low compared to that of their single- and polycrystalline silicon cousins, the workhorses of the present “renewables” technology base for electricity generation. A larger-area film-based cell would thus be required to produce the same amount of power, which could hamper the above-mentioned keenly sought-after applications. Zhou et al. now show that the flexibility of thin-film polymer solar cells can get around this problem. They demonstrate a polymer solar cell that can be unfolded like a map. The V-shaped corrugations of the unfolded cell not only enhance practicality but also serve to optimize the collection of light (by multiple reflection) so that the overall efficiency of the cell increases. The future prospects for these thin-film solar cells have just gotten a little bit brighter. — ISO

Appl. Phys. Lett. 93, 33302 (2008).

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