Scientists have been trying for decades to develop functional, flexible solar cells, because they could be integrated into fabrics and used to coat irregular shapes and surfaces. And now scientists at Fudan University in Shanghai have developed polymer solar cells that are light, flexible, cheap to produce, and thin enough to be used in fabrics.
In order to create these new type of solar cells which are only the size of our fingernail, scientists figured out that they could interweave microscopic metal wires – coated in an active polymer designed to absorb sunlight – with titanium dioxide nanotubes and a second type of active polymer to form a textile. Together these components work by having the metal wires absorb sunlight and generate electrons and their positive counterparts, known as ‘electron holes‘. The electrons are then conducted by the titanium dioxide nanotubes, and the electron holes are conducted by the second active polymer. To complete the circuit, the scientists painted each side of the textile with transparent, conductive sheets of carbon nanotubes.
Scientists have published their design in the journal Angewandte Chemie. According to that published report, this new type of flexible solar cells has been made to be symmetrical so that it can absorb light from either side. Being extremely flexible, the solar cells can be bent more than 200 times with barely any effect on its overall efficiency.
According to lead researcher Huisheng Peng, “The main difficulties encountered are how to scale up the solar-cell textile while maintaining high energy-conversion efficiencies.”
Now the scientists are working to make these flexible solar cells more efficient as there is certainly potential in the technology.
Source: Chemistry World