Glitter-Sized Solar Cells Could Be Woven Into Your Power Tie

By Eliza Strickland | December 28, 2009 4:31 pm

solar-microcellsThe newest big thing in solar power is a set of solar panels so small that they could be mistaken for specks of glitter.

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have produced “microcells” that are thinner than a human hair, which are made from crystalline silicon and use 100 times less material to generate the same amount of electricity as standard solar cells made from 6-inch square solar wafers [Inhabitat].

What’s more, the tiny solar cells could be attached to flexible materials like plastic or cloth, letting inventors dream of a solar power tie that could recharge your cell phone, or a tent that could run electric lights at night.

Says lead researcher Greg Nielson: “With this technology, one can envision ubiquitous [solar-powered] devices.” … In the lab, these hexagonal microcells have achieved photovoltaic efficiencies of about 15 percent, denoting the percentage of light shone on them that is converted into harvestable electricity. High-end commercial-grade solar cells can reap about 20 percent currently, though Nielson thinks the microcells can more than match this [LiveScience].

Even though the tiny solar panels are made of relatively expensive silicon rather than the cheaper materials being used in emerging thin film solar technologies, researchers say that mass-production of the microcells should keep costs low.

Related Content:
80beats: Japan Pushes Forward on Plans for a Giant Solar Power Farm in Space
80beats: Europe’s Plan to Draw Solar Power From the Sahara Moves Ahead
80beats: Solar Energy Company Offers Radical, Tubular Solar Panels
80beats: Colorful Dyes Can Turn Regular Windows Into Solar Panels
DISCOVER: Introducing the Most Efficient Solar Power in the World
DISCOVER: Powering the Planet With Sun-Harnessing Balloons

Image: Murat Okandan/Sandia National Laboratories

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • Romeo Vitelli

    Even if ties do become power sources, chances are I’m still going to be getting an ugly one for Christmas.

  • Em

    I think this is a pretty cool delvelopment.

    Even if the ties are ugly, at least now they’d do something other than make an easy last-minute gift.

  • brianm0122

    Stick them on the surface of an electric car. Then it can charge all day while it is sitting in a parking lot or driveway.

  •,64623 zabawki sklep

    Hi, Neat post. There is an issue along with your website in internet explorer, could check this¡K IE nonetheless is the marketplace chief and a large component to other folks will leave out your excellent writing due to this problem.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar