The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has recently shown the latest results of the research projects made by Italian oil company Eni, regarding paper-thin solar cells. These could be used as window covers, to harvest solar power.
The MIT researchers’ prototypes of paper solar cells are capable to produce enough power to light a small LED display. Karen Gleason, chemical engineering professor, claims that such a solar paper device will be available on the market in about five years.
“It’d be a matter of economics and investment on the time frame for large-scale commercialization. If everything went great, I think five years is not unreasonable,” he said.
The researcher hopes for a brighter future, where cheap paper solar cells will be used on the cover of laptops, shades or blinds. Besides this, paper cells could also be integrated into flexible strips and then attached quickly onto roofs even by untrained people. This way, the cost of solar power will be drastically diminished.
The working principle behind the paper-thin solar cells is a layer-by-layer manufacturing process which uses polymers and organic materials. To create a paper solar cell, five layers of solid material are deposited onto a paper substrate, and each layer serves a different function. So far, the efficiency of these solar cells is very low, just 1 percent, but the MIT researchers want to obtain an efficiency around 15 percent before commercialization.