Solar cells slim down5th Apr 2012
Developing the thinnest, most flexible solar cells is something of a battleground for many scientists - and it seems that experts in Japan have won the latest round.
Creating versatile technology should mean that solar panels can have a greater number of applications, perhaps even turning everyday objects into power generators.
While this might seem like a pipedream at the moment, Japanese researchers seem to have made some progress into making this a reality.
Imagine a solar cell that is thin enough to be wrapped around a human hair. Struggling? Well that's hardly surprising, as their latest solar cell development is around 1.9 micro-metres thick.
Need more clarification? This is less than a standard thread of spider silk - in other words, pretty darn thin.
You might be asking what sort of practical applications something so fragile might have - a question that the researchers are only too keen to address.
Tsuyoshi Sekitani from the University of Tokyo explains: "You could attach the device to your clothes like a badge to collect electricity from the sun.
"Elderly people who might want to wear sensors to monitor their health would not need to carry around batteries."
The team is confident that its invention will not be prone to damage by bending, and has even suggested more alterations to make the cells bigger and perhaps more effective.
By increasing the size of the solar cells, they will become even less vulnerable to damage and therefore be more useful on the commercial market.
Further changes also need to be made to raise the rate at which the cells convert sunlight into electricity.
Just one question remains: when can we expect to see this invention put to practical use?
The experts anticipate it will be another five years or so... watch this space!
Posted by Mike Peacock