Flexible solar cells are now fast becoming a part of the present lifestyle. You may not be aware but the device you are using maybe integrated with one. Since its inception, the solar cell has become a promising breakthrough in science as an alternative source of energy.
However, the rigidity of solar cells of the past had been too rigid for its own good. People were virtually unaware of solar technology and those who knew it shy away from using it because it was (1) too costly and (2) hard to integrate to home projects.
Flexible Solar Cells Technology
If you still do not get the idea, a solar-powered calculator of the 80’s has rows of “cells” that trap solar energy to power it. More often than not, you have to place it under direct sunlight for it to work. The flexible solar cells of today, on the other hand, have a much better accuracy and precision in trapping solar energy.
Scientists have also found a way to make it available in a flexible housing. The result is a more useful commodity that skyrocketed the solar cell industry. The product has been made possible with the birth of new semiconductor materials as well as a new substrate. An example of a substrate is a silicon wafer.
Today, new plastic substrates are more flexible than ever. Amorphous silicon or crystalline silicon is more absorbing of solar energy and therefore more effective in trapping solar power for use.
Flexible solar cells are not only lightweight and paper-thin but also durable. It would not easily break even if it falls to the ground. But these solar cells are also provided with protection if used against the elements. For example, a different solar cell should be used for aircraft or permanent weather applications.
In an aircraft application, the solar cell is vulnerable to weather and fuel contamination. Usually, these solar cells are protected with an edge seal. On the other hand, weather-proof solar cells are created by integrating the flexible solar cells with UV stabilization as well as coating the entire surface with a sealing compound.
Furthering the technology
Flexible solar panels in thin films resulted to a cheaper manufacturing process. This process includes a reduced price of material, of energy costs, of capital expenses and even costs of handling. Consequently, this would result in more funding for research about the technology.
To date, the military has been conducting more researches and experiments to discover how flexible solar panels can be. There is this research that the military is currently funding. It involves integration of flexible solar panels (lightweight at that) in military uniforms. This is to afford powering carried equipment during tactical missions without carrying extra load of batteries.
In sum, flexible solar cells have a wide variety of uses and their applications are expected to double over time. Its advantage over the traditional solar panel is very evident; the flexible solar panel is a low cost material, lightweight as paper and durable enough that the panel would not break even after a fall. It is not far-fetched that the solar panels of today would become the source of power of many devices and gadgets of tomorrow.