Solar Panels have been improved a lot over the past years due to many reasons but mainly due to the increased demand and research money invested in this direction by the government and other leading academic institutions and renewable green energy companies.
Scientists at the Stanford University in the USA have innovated again. They have developed solar panels which can be attached anywhere, to any surface and then peeled off and stuck to another surface. They named these panels, Peel-and-stick Solar Panels, PaSSPs, for obvious reasons.
The innovations comes from the fact that the cells are thin and flexible and that the new process allows the solar cells to be transferred from one surface to the other without damaging them thus giving them the capability to be attached to almost anything and any surface like windows, car roofs and mobiles.
The issue with Solar cells is that they are rigid and inflexible. Solar Cells are deployed on fixed solid frames forming inflexible Solar Panels with limited applications. They are usually installed on roofs or on the ground or on poles with tracking capabilities. This inflexibility has been frustrating scientists for a long time.
The goal of the scientists working on Solar cells has been to develop Solar panels which would be flexible and would be transferable from one surface to another like the Band-Aid following the same peel and stick process.
Stanford researchers from the Mechanical Engineering department of the University along with researchers from Colorado and Seoul Universities have managed to achieve of what was till recently an ideal ‘’dream’’. They have developed the first peel-and-stick thin film solar cells in the world!
The thin film technology is one of the 3 different technologies used in the PV technology. The other two technologies are the Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline technologies. A thin film photovoltaic cell is made of depositing several layers of photovoltaic material on a substrate. There are different types of thin film solar cells and they are differentiated from each other based on the material which is used to manufacture them such as amorphous silicon and dye-synthesized solar cells. As stated before the three different PV technologies are: Monocrystalline Silicon, Polycrystalline Silicon and the Thin Film technology. Each of the technologies has different efficiency figures and they are preferred over the other for many and different reasons depending on the application and the area of installation.
Peel-and-stick thin film solar cells differ from the general and well known Thin- film solar cells in the sense that there is no need for direct fabrication on the final substrate. This small but basic difference is the one which will enable the peel-and-stick solar cells to be attached anywhere thus opening the doors for new innovative applications.
When we look closely at this new and innovative technology we can see that there are significant benefits identified and associated with the peel-and-stick technology. The most important benefits are:
In addition to the above it should be noted that the peel-and-stick solar cells, PaSSCs, have the same efficiency as the common thin-film solar cells, TFSCs.
The peel-and stick fabrication process involves two steps which differentiate them from the other thin-film solar cells. These are:
The peeling process is assisted by the water, since the peeling is done in water, and basically it is de-bonding between Nickel and Silicon dioxide. That is the TFSC is separated in a water bath and then it is attached to any surface using a commonly used adhesive material such as double faced tape. It should be noted that in the water sink a transfer holder is used to hold the TFSC and once the TFSC is attached to the destination surface the transfer holder which is no longer needed is removed.
You can find more about this process from the published article at the Scientific Reports, the December 20th issue where the paper by the inventor-scientists is published under the title, ‘’Peel-and-Stick: Fabricating Thin Film Solar Cell on Universal Substrates’’.
What differentiates this innovation from previous attempts to produce thin-film solar cells is the fact that this process does not modify existing processes thus making the whole processes commercially viable.
This new innovative process of producing peel-and-stick thin-film solar cells enables the use of solar cell technology in many more areas and on a great number of materials like clothes, mobile phones and tablets, and making possible the use of solar energy in many more applications. Even though we are at the beginning of this new technology the prospects are many and are probably limited only by the imagination of the developers.