Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Peel-and-Stick Panels Extend Solar's Reach

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Peel-and-Stick Panels Extend Solar's Reach

Article excerpt

For all their promise, solar cells have frustrated scientists in one crucial regard: Most are rigid. They must be deployed in stiff, often heavy, fixed panels, limiting their application. So researchers have been trying to get photovoltaics to loosen up. The ideal: flexible, decal-like solar panels that can be peeled off like Band-Aids and stuck to virtually any surface, from papers to window panes.

Now the ideal is real. Stanford researchers have developed the world's first peel-and-stick, thin-film solar cells. The breakthrough is described in a paper in Scientific Reports.

Unlike standard thin-film solar cells, the peel-and-stick version doesn't require any direct fabrication on the final carrier substrate. All the challenges associated with putting solar cells on unconventional materials are avoided with the new process, vastly expanding the potential applications of solar technology.

Thin-film photovoltaic cells are traditionally fixed on rigid silicon and glass substrates, greatly limiting their uses, said Chi Hwan Lee, lead author of the paper and a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering. And while the development of thin-film solar cells promised to inject some flexibility into the technology, explained Xiaolin Zheng, a Stanford assistant professor of mechanical engineering, scientists found that use of alternative substrates was problematic in the extreme. …

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