These ultra-thin solar cells can be bent around a pencil

Thin, bendable cells could bring solar power to many new devices

Scientists in South Korea have developed solar cells thin enough they can be bent around a pencil. The cells, which were announced on Monday, could help usher in the use of solar energy in small portable gadgets where space is at a premium.

The cells are fabricated onto a flexible substrate that is just a micrometer thick -- one-half to one-quarter the thickness of other "thin" solar cells and hundreds of times thinner than conventional cells. A human hair, by comparison, is about 100 micrometers.

The team at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea managed to reduce the thickness by directly attaching the cells to the substrate without the use of an adhesive.

They were stamped onto the substrate and then cold welded, a process that binds two materials together through pressure, not heat.

The scientists tested the cells and discovered they can almost be folded in half -- wrapped around a radius as small as 1.4 millimeters.

A paper describing the work was published on Monday in Applied Physics Letters, a journal of the American Institute of Physics.

Solar cells are commonly used as power sources in several types of large electronics, but their use on consumer items, such as gadgets and even cars, has been limited. That's in part because of the smaller area available to mount the cells and the fact that such products often have numerous curved surfaces. The new panels could overcome those limitations.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?