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Thin Film Solar Cells to Get Printed on Water: New Technology

Applications for Stanford / NREL's Micro-Thin Solar Power Cell
Applications for Stanford / NREL’s Micro-Thin Solar Power Cell

With the ability to put solar power anywhere just like a bumper sticker, the possibilities for solar power just expanded.

Thin-film solar power, it was thought, were as thin as could be, but a combination of processes developed jointly between Stanford University and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory [NREL] is bringing thin-ness to a whole new level.

Water-assisted Transfer Printing [WTP] is a process in which something is printed on water, and then an object is pulled through the film, causing the film to adhere to the object.

Stanford University researchers were already printing micron-thin solar cells using the WTP process, even before nanowire solar cells were being developed. The question was, what can you do with a micron-thin WTP solar cell? NREL’s answer was the put it on a bumper sticker, well, something like a bumper sticker anyways.

Stanford University’s WTP solar cell can be layered on an adhesive-backed sheet, resulting in a truly thin-film solar cell that can be peeled and stuck anywhere with no loss in solar efficiency over a more rigid or thicker backing.

Of course, now the question is where do I stick my solar power bumper sticker. Perhaps the back of a mobile phone? It’s also transparent, so it could even be placed over glass without ruining the view. If they tint the peel-and-stick substrate, you could have solar powered window tinting for your car or office. Cool and Green!

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