Flexible Silicon Solar-Cell Fabrics Are Possible : Wear a solar fiber jacket. Fiber-based solar cells would be lightweight, flexible configurations that are portable, foldable and even wearable.
For the first time, a silicon-based optical fiber with solar-cell capabilities has been developed that has been shown to be scalable to many meters in length. The research opens the door to the possibility of weaving together solar-cell silicon wires to create flexible, curved, or twisted solar fabrics. The findings by an international team of chemists, physicists, and engineers, led by John Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, will be published on a future date in the Advanced Materials journal’s print edition.
The team’s new findings build on earlier work addressing the challenge of merging optical fibers with electronic chips — silicon-based integrated circuits that serve as the building blocks for most semiconductor electronic devices such as solar cells, computers, and cell phones. Rather than merge a flat chip with a round optical fiber, the team found a way to build a new kind of optical fiber — which is thinner than the width of a human hair — with its own integrated electronic component, thereby bypassing the need to integrate fiber-optics with chips. To do this, they used high-pressure chemistry techniques to deposit semiconducting materials directly, layer by layer, into tiny holes in optical fibers.