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U.S. Group Makes Cheap Plastic Solar-Energy Cells

by Reuters
Environmental News Network - March 29, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Cheap, plastic solar cells that can be painted onto just about any surface could provide power for a range of portable and even wearable electronic devices, scientists said Thursday.

A team at the University of California Berkeley said they had come up with a first generation of plastic solar cells, which could someday replace the bulky and expensive silicon-based cells used widely now.

"Our efficiency is not good enough yet by about a factor of 10, but this technology has the potential to do a lot better," Paul Alivisatos, a professor of chemistry who led the study, said in a statement. "There is a pretty clear path for us to take to make this perform much better."

Alivisatos and his team, reporting in the journal Science, said they had created a hybrid solar cell, made of tiny nanorods dispersed in plastic. Sandwiched between electrodes, the hair-thin layer produces about 0.7 volts, they said.

They can be made "quick and dirty" in a laboratory beaker without the need for clean rooms or vacuum chambers, the researchers said.

"Today's high-efficiency solar cells require very sophisticated processing inside a clean room and complex engineering to make the semiconductor sandwiches," Alivisatos said. "And because they are baked inside a vacuum chamber, they have to be made relatively small."

"The beauty of this is that you could put solar cells directly on plastic, which has unlimited flexibility," added Janke Dittmer, who also worked on the study. "This opens up all sorts of new applications, like putting solar cells on clothing to power LEDs (light-emitting diodes), radios, or small computer processors."

U.S. Group Makes Cheap Plastic Solar-Energy Cells
Environmental News Network March 29, 2002

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