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Power Hardware Technology

Peel-and-Stick Solar Cells Created At Stanford University 46

Posted by samzenpus
from the put-that-anywhere dept.
cylonlover writes "Traditionally, thin-film solar cells are made with rigid glass substrates, limiting their potential applications. Flexible versions do exist, although they require special production techniques and/or materials. Now, however, scientists from Stanford University have created thin, flexible solar cells that are made from standard materials – and they can applied to just about any surface, like a sticker. The cells have been successfully applied to a variety of both flat and curved surfaces – including glass, plastic and paper – without any loss of efficiency. Not only does the new process allow for solar cells to applied to things like mobile devices, helmets, dashboards or windows, but the stickers are reportedly both lighter and less costly to make than equivalent-sized traditional photovoltaic panels. There's also no waste involved, as the silicon/silicon dioxide wafers can be reused."
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Peel-and-Stick Solar Cells Created At Stanford University

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  • by plover (150551) on Monday December 24, 2012 @10:55AM (#42381321) Homepage Journal

    The prices of solar cells have been dropping rapidly over the last few years. I think the "green" movement is finally driving up demand to the point where they're becoming commodity items instead of specialty items. They're now available in prices under a dollar per watt [wholesalesolar.com], which is about 4 times cheaper than they were just three years ago (the last time I was looking at a rooftop array.) That means today you can buy 400 square feet of solar panels for $5,220, capable of producing a peak power output of 5,500 watts. Not that you'll get that much power with every minute of sunshine, but it could keep a large set of batteries charged.

    Of course there's extra money involved - the panels won't mount themselves on your roof, and you'll have to buy an inverter and wire it into your house. Batteries are surprisingly optional, by the way - unless you want to run off the grid, consider selling the electricity back to the electric company instead of storing it yourself. When the smart grid arrives it could make money, as the peak power prices generally coincide with the brightest and hottest days of the year.

    I'm not sure how cheap you're expecting them to be get, but they're available today, and a lot cheaper than they were even just a few years ago. The only thing stopping you from buying them is inertia (and the money, of course).

  • Additional details (Score:5, Informative)

    by rainwalker (174354) on Monday December 24, 2012 @11:02AM (#42381367)

    As the linked article isn't fully detailed, you might want to read the actual paper [nature.com] (seems to be free access). Among other things, they note that these photocell stickers retain their original 7.5% efficiency, which although not incredibly high, is still pretty decent, given how cheap this will likely be. It should be great for costs to have the actual wafer be reusable.

  • by Glock27 (446276) on Monday December 24, 2012 @12:44PM (#42382033)

    1. The quoted efficiency (7.5%) seems to be quite low - aren't other more traditional cells at 20% or more? I don't see any indication that these cells cost half or less than traditional solar cells which would make up for the efficiency losses.

    These obviously don't use much material, and the stated materials are silicon and nickel which are both very abundant. As long as the thin film cell material is also silicon, these should be very cheap to manufacture especially in quantity. These might be a great solution for the ever-elusive "solar roof tile". Even assuming no improvement in efficiency, a 75' by 25' roof installation could generate ~50 KWh of electricity per day under average conditions. That could help quite a bit with the electric bill, especially for AC during summer in hot climates.

    2. There doesn't see to be any method of passing current from cells that are butted up or overlapping each other which means that there must be wires running to each cell. This would mean that the process of putting on different surfaces is not as simple as implied in the article summaries.

    For the solar roof tile application, the conductors would be built into the tiles. Wires are not exactly a show-stopper in terms of technology. ;-)

  • by Nf1nk (443791) <nf1nkNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday December 24, 2012 @04:21PM (#42383467) Homepage

    Uni-Solar made some seriously crappy cells. If the plastic membrane on those cells got a scratch (and they scratched pretty easy) the cell would bloom into a rust ball that produced no power. Also the mounting adhesive could not handle multiple heating and cooling cycles without coming apart. The warranty department also had no idea how to fix the problems.

  • Outdated prices (Score:4, Informative)

    by Eightbitgnosis (1571875) on Monday December 24, 2012 @04:58PM (#42383707) Homepage
    Those are very outdated prices

    http://www.dmsolar.com/solar-module-1141.html

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