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Surprising Science


Researchers have created solar panels tiny as glitter specks which could be placed anywhere to power the future.

“The newest big thing insolar power is a set of solar panels so small that they could be mistaken for specks of glitter. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratorieshave produced “microcells” that are thinner than a human hair, which are made from crystalline silicon and use 100 times less material to generate the same amount of electricity as standard solar cells made from 6-inch square solar wafers [Inhabitat]. What’s more, the tiny solar cells could be attached to flexible materials like plastic or cloth, letting inventors dream of a solar power tie that could recharge your cell phone, or a tent that could run electric lights at night. Says lead researcher Greg Nielson: ‘With this technology, one can envision ubiquitous [solar-powered] devices.’ … In the lab, these hexagonal microcells have achieved photovoltaic efficiencies of about 15 percent, denoting the percentage of light shone on them that is converted into harvestable electricity. High-end commercial-grade solar cells can reap about 20 percent currently, though Nielson thinks the microcells can more than match this [LiveScience].”


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