Peel And Stick Thin Film Solar Cells

Solar cells may be appearing in lots of unexpected places, thanks to research on very thin film solar cells that can be attached to almost any surface.

NREL’s amorphous silicon cells were fabricated on nickel-coated Si/SiO2 wafers. A thermal release tape attached to the top of the solar cell serves as a temporary transfer holder. An optional transparent protection layer is spin-casted in between the thermal tape and the solar cell to prevent contamination when the device is dipped in water. The result is a thin strip much like a bumper sticker: the user can peel off the handler and apply the solar cell directly to a surface.

“It’s been a quite successful collaboration,” Wang said. “We were able to peel it off nicely and test the cell both before and after. We found almost no degradation in performance due to the peel-off.”

The cells’ ability to adhere to a universal substrate is unusual; most thin-film cells must be affixed to a special substrate. The peel-and-stick approach allows the use of flexible polymer substrates and high processing temperatures. The resulting flexible, lightweight, and transparent devices then can be integrated onto curved surfaces such as military helmets and portable electronics, transistors and sensors.

It's amazing that a solar cell can be so incredibly thin; it makes me think of the black power spray-on solar cells from Larry Niven's 1995 story The Woman in Del Rey Crater.

Via National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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