11/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

New Thin Solar Cells Allow Greater Flexibility Of Use

Photovoltaic cells, the basic building blocks of solar panels, are more efficient and less costly than ever. But manipulating cells (which are usually made of semiconductor materials) and incorporating them into different panel designs is not necessarily easy.

John A. Rogers of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and colleagues have come up with a novel method for creating extremely thin solar cells that can be combined in flexible, even partially transparent, arrays. Described in Nature Materials, it could be called the rubber-stamp approach.

The technique may allow the fabrication of solar arrays with a variety of characteristics. For example, the researchers say it would be possible to print the cells on rollable plastic sheets that would be easy to transport and install. Or by printing the cells on glass in different densities, solar arrays could be incorporated into windows that have a specific level of transparency.

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