The rigidity of solar cells has long frustrated scientists. Solar cell applications are often very limited since the cells come in stiff, heavy, fixed panels. Scientists have long dreamed of photovoltaics that are more like decals than panels, and they envisioned flexible solar panels that can be peeled off like stickers and adhere to any surface, from paper to window panes. Stanford researchers have done it, and the dream has become a reality. They’ve created the very first peel-and-stick solar cells, a feat described in the December 20th issue of Scientific Reports.
The revolutionary process combines silicon, silicon dioxide, and sandwiched metal. A silicon/silicon dioxide (Si/SiO2) wafer houses a 300-nanometer film of nickel (Ni), and thin-film solar cells are then placed on the nickel layer. A layer of protective polymer is then placed on top. Thermal release tape augments thin-film solar cell transfer off of the production wafer and onto a new substrate.
This, then, leads to a solar cell that is removable from the wafer. All that needs to be done to peel it off is to add water and submerge the cell in room temperature water.
Researchers are excited at the possible applications of the solar cells. Using them on cell phones, convex windows, helmets, curved roofs, clothing, portable electronic devices are just a few of the future possibilities.