Innovative Solar Stickers May Replace Bulky Solar Panels: Stansford Researcher Makes New Strides On Techniques

By @diplomatist10 on
A long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the Sun's atmosphere, the corona, erupts out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT on August 31, 2012. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second. The CME did not travel
A long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the Sun's atmosphere, the corona, erupts out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT on August 31, 2012. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second. The CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth's magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, causing aurora to appear on the night of September 3, 2012. The image above includes an image of Earth to show the size of the CME compared to the size of Earth. Reuters

New strides are marking the revolution in solar technology by increasing its scope of applications, in terms of ease of use and reduction in costs. One of the latest innovations has been solar stickers that can draw solar energy by sticking it anywhere.

This significant advancement was made by Xialing Zheng and her team of fellow researchers at Stanford University. They have succeeded in creating a type of solar cell that is thin, flexible and adhesive. They call it "solar sticker" as it helps in powering everything from buildings to airplanes.

Affordable Panel

"By making solar cells that are extremely thin and flexible, their scope of applications are also increasing exponentially," said Zheng, who is an associate professor at Stanford and a recipient of the U.S. Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. The young researcher said the discovery would dramatically expand the affordable, practical, widespread application of solar power, reported The National Geographic.

In 2010, Zheng happened to read a research paper, which described an experiment about the nanomaterial, grapheme, being grown on a layer of nickel atop a silicon wafer. When submerged in water, the nickel would separate from the surface, along with the graphene. That was unbelievable and sounded like a magic. For Zheng that became the starting point for very reliable results. The same principle was then applied to yield a thinner, more flexible solar cell that can peel off and can be attached like an adhesive and can be stuck to virtually any surface.

The innovation also helped her in finding a response to the wish her father had expressed when he was commenting on the rooftops of buildings getting congested with solar panels. By using stickers a building's entire surface can be utilised for generating solar power, including walls and windows. That helps in decongesting the roof. 

Pizza-Like Cells

Under the new innovation, there is a departure from the conventional thin-film solar cells that are manufactured on glass or silicon wafers. They are rigid, heavy and limited in their scope for use. Plastic or paper would be flexible but they cannot withstand the high temperatures and chemicals for fabrication. So, the young researcher's new technique focused on treating solar cells like a pizza. Zheng set out to fabricate solar cells on a silicone or glass surface as usual and made a change by inserting a metallic layer between the cell and the surface. 

After some trial and error, the team was able to peel away the metallic layer from the surface and soaked the whole structure in water for a few seconds. The result was the emergence of an active solar of a couple of microns thickness, which is one-tenth the thickness of plastic wrap. Zheng said, "It is extremely flexible, so it can be attached to any surface including a mobile phone, a skylight, a wall, a curved column."

Similar studies at the University of Alberta in Canada also threw up some cost effective ways of manufacturing solar panels. One research group created a liquid to make films that can absorb light and create electricity in an inexpensive manner, reported Greener Ideal. This nano-particle-based liquid can be printed like a newspaper press. It can also be sprayed on the walls and roofs.

 

 

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