Flexible solar panels are practically the savior of the solar panel or solar cell industry.
Traditional solar panels received a lukewarm acceptance in the energy industry and the world market as well because of being too costly and rigid in installation and construction. Imagine a thick, breakable solar panel on top of your laptop. Doesn’t look good, right?
Now, with the advent of flexible thin films for producing paper-thin solar cells, you can say goodbye to design and usability issues. The solar power technology is expected to experience a boom in both use and application.
What are flexible solar panels?
Flexible panels are actually thin films of solar foil, which because of its flexibility has lend itself useful to a number of applications. It is because of this new feature that led to the popularity of solar-powered energy sources. The use of thin film solar panels are also expected to influence smaller electronic components as well as more portable alternative energy sources. The applications of flexible solar panels cover the construction industry, the military and even the common household.
The thin films are actually a breakthrough in photovoltaic technology and many research foundations and institutions now focus their attention in producing these thin films at a much cheaper cost. A cheaper cost is essential for the product to become more suitable for mass production (and eventually for commercial use).
Usage and application of flexible solar panels
An example of the application is in flexible batteries. The batteries use ultra-thin solar cells that are protected by a flexible gas barrier to avoid degradation with continuous exposure to the air. Because of the flexibility of the solar cells, the batteries are ultra-lightweight and are easily manufactured in small sizes. The batteries are currently used to power some smart cards and mobile handsets.
The material can also be used to develop thin film semiconductors that can be useful in a number of electronic devices. In fact, flexible solar panels have been eyed as a potential material for next generation flat panel displays. Military uses could include RFID applications (Radio frequency identification)a nd electronic paper.
New semiconductor materials out in the market such as crystalline and amorphous silicon were a result of continuous research and were developed to improve the thin film technology for flexible solar cells. These new materials may face their own obstacles in terms of cost and technical specifications but experts expect further stability for these materials as more research are done.
In thin film technologies, the major problem faced by researchers is the accuracy and precision of the resulting film. Various methods of depositing into substrates, for example, the silicon wafer, were devised to maintain the accuracy of the resulting thin film. Without this precision, the resulting solar panel would be inefficient to trap solar energy.
Without flexible solar panels, solar energy use might still be in its infancy today. It is a good thing that scientists are drilling down into the common solar cell and eliminating its weaknesses, creating a solar panel that is flexible and thin increases its applications, both in the military and in the common household as well.