New technology for flexible and efficient PV panels

Dec 30, 2019 05:12 PM ET
  • A scientific team from Saudi Arabia has proved that silicon-based PV cells can be efficient and stretchable at the same time. The innovative solution can be used in artificial skin or flexible e-devices.
New technology for flexible and efficient PV panels

A group of scientists from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology has discovered how to make 95% stretchy silicon cells with 19% conversion efficiency. Researchers from all over the world are constantly in search of innovative materials for PV cell manufacturing. Anyway, cheap, non-toxic, reliable and efficient mono-Si is still the most popular one in solar production. 

However, Si is unsuitable for some purposes because it is too rigid. As for non-rigid materials that can be used in PV cells, they are either too costly or inefficient. The Saudi Arabian research team has invented inexpensive but efficient flexible cells made from silicon. They have coated the backside of a conventional Si-based PV cell with ecoflex, which is a cheap and non-toxic elastic polymer. After this, with the help of a laser, the developers have split the device into many pieces of silicon, with the ecoflex lining holding the pieces together. 

At first, the pieces of silicon were made rectangular. However, their stretchiness could not exceed 54%, otherwise the fragile pieces would get cracked. The researchers continued experimenting with shapes. They had to keep in mind that the more they cut from each piece, the less they get a sunlight-catching area. The next step was diamond-shaped pieces. Finally, they have settled on a triangular shape, which has allowed the scientists break existing records of flexibility and performance. 

Among other applications, the newly created device is meant to be used for powering multi-sensory robot skin. The further plans of the developers include increasing the achieved stretchability and creating PV panels stretchable in any direction.

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