They receive solar cells as light as a soap bubble

MIT researchers have developed ultra-thin, flexible photovoltaic cells that are lighter than ever., and it could have multiple uses in our current society. Solar cells so thin, flexible and light they could be placed on almost any material or surface, including your hat, shirt or smartphone, or even on a sheet of paper or a helium balloon.

These new solar cells could help charge the next generation of portable electronic devices.

The project leaders are Professor Vladimir Bulović, researcher Annie Wang and doctoral student Joel Jean.

In a first prototype, the team used a common flexible polymer called parylene for the substrate that supports it and the coating that protects it, and an organic material called DBP as the main light-absorbing layer. Parylene is a commercially available plastic coating used to protect implanted biomedical devices and printed circuit boards. The whole process takes place in a vacuum chamber at room temperature and without the use of solvents, unlike the manufacture of conventional solar cells, which requires high temperatures and harsh chemicals. The result is a 1.3 micron thick solar cell, and able to generate 6 watts per gram.

With this system, the team reached the thinner and lighter solar cells than ever before. So thin and light that we can place cells in a soap bubble without bursting it.

It can be so light that you don’t even know you’re wearing it on your shirt or on your laptop. These cells could be an ideal complement to existing structures.

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