What's the Latest Development?

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have printed lightweight solar cells, which can be scrunched up like an accordion yet still conduct electricity, onto untreated copy paper using a technique that could help to slash the cost of producing solar cells. "The team changed an ingredient in the material sandwich that makes up a solar cell. They used a flexible conducting polymer as the bottom electrode in the sandwich instead of a transparent metal oxide. The researchers constructed the solar cell using a dry fabrication process, depositing each layer as a vapour dispersed in a vacuum."

What's the Big Idea?

The glass or plastic backing typically used for solar cells accounts for 25 to 60 per cent of the total cost for materials and so lightweight paper-based cells could significantly reduce photovoltaic production, transportation and installation costs. At the moment, these paper solar cells are only about 1 per cent efficient. But that's still enough to run small electronics like an alarm clock. A lightweight solar cell could be used for wallpaper or window shades and simply installed using staples or glue.