Paper-thin solar cell can turn any surface into a power

MIT engineers have developed ultralight cloth photo voltaic cells that may shortly and simply flip any floor into an influence supply.

These sturdy, versatile photo voltaic cells, that are a lot thinner than a human hair, are glued to a robust, light-weight cloth, making them straightforward to put in on a hard and fast floor. They’ll present power on the go as a wearable energy cloth or be transported and quickly deployed in distant areas for help in emergencies. They’re one-hundredth the load of typical photo voltaic panels, generate 18 instances extra power-per-kilogram, and are created from semiconducting inks utilizing printing processes that may be scaled sooner or later to large-area manufacturing.

See also  Jacob Andreas and Mingda Li honored with Junior Bose Award

As a result of they’re so skinny and light-weight, these photo voltaic cells will be laminated onto many alternative surfaces. As an illustration, they may very well be built-in onto the sails of a ship to offer energy whereas at sea, adhered onto tents and tarps which are deployed in catastrophe restoration operations, or utilized onto the wings of drones to increase their flying vary. This light-weight photo voltaic expertise will be simply built-in into constructed environments with minimal set up wants.

“The metrics used to judge a brand new photo voltaic cell expertise are usually restricted to their energy conversion effectivity and their price in dollars-per-watt. Simply as vital is integrability — the convenience with which the brand new expertise will be tailored. The light-weight photo voltaic materials allow integrability, offering impetus for the present work. We attempt to speed up photo voltaic adoption, given the current pressing have to deploy new carbon-free sources of power,” says Vladimir Bulović, the Fariborz Maseeh Chair in Rising Know-how, chief of the Natural and Nanostructured Electronics Laboratory (ONE Lab), director of MIT.nano, and senior writer of a new paper describing the work.

Becoming a member of Bulović on the paper are co-lead authors Mayuran Saravanapavanantham, {an electrical} engineering and laptop science graduate scholar at MIT; and Jeremiah Mwaura, a analysis scientist within the MIT Analysis Laboratory of Electronics. The analysis is printed immediately in Small Strategies.

Slimmed down photo voltaic

Conventional silicon photo voltaic cells are fragile, so that they have to be encased in glass and packaged in heavy, thick aluminum framing, which limits the place and the way they are often deployed.

Six years in the past, the ONE Lab staff produced photo voltaic cells utilizing an rising class of thin-film supplies that had been so light-weight they could sit on top of a soap bubble. However these ultrathin photo voltaic cells had been fabricated utilizing complicated, vacuum-based processes, which will be costly and difficult to scale up.

On this work, they got down to develop thin-film photo voltaic cells which are totally printable, utilizing ink-based supplies and scalable fabrication methods.

To provide the photo voltaic cells, they use nanomaterials which are within the type of a printable digital inks. Working within the MIT.nano clear room, they coat the photo voltaic cell construction utilizing a slot-die coater, which deposits layers of the digital supplies onto a ready, releasable substrate that’s solely 3 microns thick. Utilizing display printing (a way just like how designs are added to silkscreened T-shirts), an electrode is deposited on the construction to finish the photo voltaic module. 

The researchers can then peel the printed module, which is about 15 microns in thickness, off the plastic substrate, forming an ultralight photo voltaic gadget.

However such skinny, freestanding photo voltaic modules are difficult to deal with and might simply tear, which might make them troublesome to deploy. To resolve this problem, the MIT staff looked for a light-weight, versatile, and high-strength substrate they might adhere the photo voltaic cells to. They recognized materials because the optimum resolution, as they supply mechanical resilience and suppleness with little added weight.

They discovered an excellent materials — a composite cloth that weighs solely 13 grams per sq. meter, commercially often called Dyneema. This cloth is product of fibers which are so robust they had been used as ropes to raise the sunken cruise ship Costa Concordiafrom the underside of the Mediterranean Sea. By including a layer of UV-curable glue, which is only some microns thick, they adhere the photo voltaic modules to sheets of this cloth. This varieties an ultra-light and mechanically strong photo voltaic construction.

“Whereas it’d seem less complicated to simply print the photo voltaic cells immediately on the material, this may restrict the choice of potential materials or different receiving surfaces to those which are chemically and thermally suitable with all of the processing steps wanted to make the gadgets. Our strategy decouples the photo voltaic cell manufacturing from its closing integration,” Saravanapavanantham explains.

Outshining typical photo voltaic cells

Once they examined the gadget, the MIT researchers discovered it might generate 730 watts of energy per kilogram when freestanding and about 370 watts-per-kilogram if deployed on the high-strength Dyneema cloth, which is about 18 instances extra power-per-kilogram than typical photo voltaic cells.

“A typical rooftop photo voltaic set up in Massachusetts is about 8,000 watts. To generate that very same quantity of energy, our cloth photovoltaics would solely add about 20 kilograms (44 kilos) to the roof of a home,” he says.

In addition they examined the sturdiness of their gadgets and located that, even after rolling and unrolling a material photo voltaic panel greater than 500 instances, the cells nonetheless retained greater than 90 p.c of their preliminary energy technology capabilities.

Whereas their photo voltaic cells are far lighter and rather more versatile than conventional cells, they might should be encased in one other materials to guard them from the atmosphere. The carbon-based natural materials used to make the cells may very well be modified by interacting with moisture and oxygen within the air, which might deteriorate their efficiency.

“Encasing these photo voltaic cells in heavy glass, as is customary with the normal silicon photo voltaic cells, would reduce the worth of the current development, so the staff is presently creating ultrathin packaging options that might solely fractionally improve the load of the current ultralight gadgets,” says Mwaura.

“We’re working to take away as a lot of the non-solar-active materials as potential whereas nonetheless retaining the shape issue and efficiency of those ultralight and versatile photo voltaic constructions. For instance, we all know the manufacturing course of will be additional streamlined by printing the releasable substrates, equal to the method we use to manufacture the opposite layers in our gadget. This could speed up the interpretation of this expertise to the market,” he provides.

This analysis is funded, partially, by the MIT Vitality Initiative, the U.S. Nationwide Science Basis, and the Pure Sciences and Engineering Analysis Council of Canada.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *