A thin-film photovoltaic a few microns thick, less than a human hair, could represent a great opportunity for large-scale use in various fields such as hi-tech equipment, wearable devices, skin and tissue diagnostics, and much more. other.
Solar energy against climate change
Using the sun’s energy to produce electricity is an important way to reduce climate-changing emissions and improve sustainability. However, traditional solar panels are often large and bulky, making them less versatile. Over the years, research institutes and companies around the world have tried to develop smarter solutions that can use solar energy efficiently and pervasively. The goal is to extend the use of solar energy in all possible situations, in order to maximize the environmental and energy benefits.
The discovery of MIT scientists
The scientists of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) di Boston have developed a new thin-film solar panel technology that promises to produce 18 times more energy than traditional solar panels, using just one kilogram of the material. The new technology is seen as an important step towards a more sustainable and energy-efficient future. However, MIT scientists now have to address the challenge of making the technology scalable for large-scale use.
The team of MIT scientists used the results obtained in previous years, which included the creation of ultra-thin solar cells so light that you can lean on a soap bubble without breaking it in 2016, to overcome the obstacles that had blocked the development of the technology.
The manufacturing processes to create ultra-thin solar cells available six years ago required the use of vacuum chambers and expensive vapor deposition methods. However, with the advent of 3D printing, MIT scientists have been able to simplify and make the production process more economicalthus making it possible to develop a new thin-film solar panel technology.
How the panel is produced
The manufacturing process of the new thin-film solar panel technology consists of using nanomaterials in the form of printable semiconductor inks, which are deposited on a plastic substrate with a thickness of 3 microns. Next, a printable electrode is added to the module to form a solar panel.
The 3D printed solar module can be easily detached from the plastic substrate and glued onto a fabric that provides the necessary mechanical strength to prevent tearing, without adding significant weight. This allows for more flexibility in using the solar panel, for example for integration into wearables or textiles.
The end result is an ultra-lightweight, flexible solar cell weighing just one-hundredth the weight of conventional solar panels, yet capable of generate 18 times more energy per kilogram.
During testing, the MIT team discovered that the 3D printed solar cell can generate up to 370 watts per kilogram when applied to a fabricbut up to 730 watts if it has no textile backing, demonstrating remarkable energy efficiency.
Tests conducted by the MIT team showed that the fabric solar panel can be rolled and unrolled more than 500 times while maintaining 90% of its power generation capacity. However, it is important to protect the material from the weather to ensure its durability and performance.
A power of about 8,000 watts”
“A typical rooftop solar installation in Massachusetts has an output of about 8,000 watts,” said co-lead author Mayuran Saravanapavanantham. “To generate the same amount of energy, our fabric photovoltaics it would only add about 20 kilograms to a house’s roof“, further adding that this would make it possible to install solar panels in many buildings where previously it was not possible due to excessive weight.
Protect the solar cell from the weather
“Enclosing these solar cells in heavy glass, as is the case with traditional silicon solar cells, would minimize the value of current progress. For this reason, the MIT team is currently developing ultra-thin packaging solutions that would only minimally increase the weight of current ultra-lightweight devices.” said Jeremiah Mwaura, a researcher at the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics. This means that iThe team is working to find ways to protect the material from the elements without compromising its lightness and flexibilityto make the technology usable in a wide range of applications.
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