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.

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Image: Murat Okandan/Sandia National Laboratories

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • http://drvitelli.typepad.com 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.

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    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.

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