Researchers from Virginia Tech have that rivals current solar technology. Their in the journal ACS Energy Letters.
The new solar panels are less than half a millimeter thick, and are made using an efficient screen-printing technique to adhere a thin film of titanium oxide to the base material. The process can be completed in under 10 seconds.
The new solar panels can also absorb a broader spectrum of light than traditional solar panels, meaning they can also generate power from artificial light. These solar panels could be placed inside your home, as wallpaper or window shades, to generate power from sunlight during the day and recycle some of the energy from your artificial lights at night.
The researchers are also working with the Army's Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center to outfit these solar panels on soldiers' backpacks and uniforms. This could enable soldiers to better carry more high-tech gear on the battlefield, as well as reduce the weight they would need to carry.
Currently, these flexible solar panels are almost as efficient as standard ones. Typical solar panel efficiency is around 13-15 percent, and these new panels can already manage 10 percent efficiency. However, the panels become more efficient at smaller sizes, so this technology could soon be used on clothing or in other small-scale applications.