Solar panels have gotten thinner than a human hair

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Baku, June 24, AZERTAC

South Korean scientists have created solar PV cells that are 1 micrometer thick, hundreds of times thinner than most PV and half again as thin as other kinds of thin-film PV, according to vox. (The research is in a paper just published in Applied Physics Letters.)

The cells are made with gallium arsenide as the semiconductor, "cold welded" directly onto a metal substrate, with no adhesive to make them thicker. Remarkably, they produce roughly as much power as thicker PV cells, though in testing, "the cells could wrap around a radius as small as 1.4 millimeters."

With cells this thin, solar PV can be integrated in all sorts of "wearables" — clothes, glasses, hats, or backpacks with solar cells integrated, continuously feeding power to our portable electronics. More to the point, PV could be integrated into just about anything.

The process takes place in a vacuum chamber at room temperature, without the solvents and high temperatures required to make conventional PV. Researchers say the same fabrication process could work with a number of different materials, including quantum dots or perovskites, yielding solar cells small and transparent enough to be embedded in windows or building materials.

Now, all these lab breakthroughs are just that: lab breakthroughs. It’s a long road from the lab to a commercial product. Plenty could go wrong in between.

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