Chinese researchers revolutionize solar cell technology, creating highly flexible and paper-thin solar cells

Chinese scientists have made a significant breakthrough in the production of highly flexible solar cells that are as thin as paper. 

The researchers, from the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology (SIMIT), achieved this by developing a unique technology that allows the edges of textured crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar cells to be tailored, enabling them to be bent and folded without damage. 

This breakthrough, which has been featured on the cover of the May 24 issue of Nature, opens up broader possibilities for the application and usage of solar cells.

The newly developed c-Si solar cells, utilizing this technology, can be manufactured to be only between 50 and 60 micrometers thin and possess a bending radius of approximately 8 millimeters. 

c-Si solar cells are a rapidly developing type of solar cell known for their extended lifespan and high conversion efficiency, making them a leading product in the photovoltaic market. 

Currently, c-Si solar cells hold a market share of over 95 percent, according to Di Zengfeng, deputy head of SIMIT and one of the researchers involved in the study.

Liu Zhengxin, a research fellow at SIMIT and one of the authors of the research paper, said that the study demonstrates the feasibility of mass production and provides a technical pathway for the development of lightweight and flexible c-Si solar cells. 

Despite being developed nearly 70 years ago, c-Si solar cells have had limited applications until now. They are primarily used in distributed photovoltaic power stations and ground photovoltaic power stations.

However, the researchers hope that with the newfound flexibility and thinness of these solar cells, they can be incorporated into various areas such as construction, backpacks, tents, automobiles, sailing boats and even airplanes. 

The researchers suggest that they can be used to generate clean energy for homes, portable electronic devices, communication devices and transportation.

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