A team of researchers, led by John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, announced that they have found a way to make silicon based solar cells that are flexible and transparent enough to be used to tint windows on buildings or cars. The new flexible solar cells retain the efficiency of conventional solar cells.
“We can make it thin enough that we can put it on plastic to make a rollable system. You can make it gray in the form of a film that could be added to architectural glass,” said John Rogers.
The team developed these new flexible silicon based solar cells by using a special etching method that uses conventional single crystal silicon, which is rigid and fragile, and then slicing off chips from the silicon wafer. The slices are 10 to 100 times thinner than the wafer, and then the slices are transfered to a new surface, such as a plastic sheet. The new cells can be used for making flexible solar panels like current thin-film cells such as those made by Nanosolar and other companies, but because they are based on silicon solar cells, the efficiency is much higher.
Rogers also announced that the technology has been licensed to a startup company named Semprius Inc.