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What about the use of foldable technology in solar panels?

Solar energy is rapidly becoming the most popular source of green, renewable energy. There are still some issues regarding the solar panel cost-efficiency and available technologies but science is constantly developing new technologies. Can foldable technology be the one widely used in solar panels?

When we think about solar panels we have this image of an rigid, flat panels and as such they are difficult in terms of storage and integration into everyday appliances.  Now, it would be a completely different perspective if we could somehow make solar cells foldable.

We have all seen foldable mobile phone screens and this research is getting more and more momentum. Could this technology be also used in solar panels?

At this point, the conductors used in solar cells lack flexibility thus creating a big obstacle to creation of fully foldable solar cell. As Professor Il Jeon of Pusan National University, Korea, says, "Unlike merely flexible electronics, foldable devices are subject to much harsher deformations, with folding radii as small as 0.5 mm. This is not possible with conventional ultra-thin glass substrates and metal oxide transparent conductors, which can be made flexible but never fully foldable."

However, the solution may lie in single-walled carbon nanotube (SWNT) films, thanks to their high transparency and mechanical resilience. The only problem is that they struggle to adhere to the substrate surface when force is applied (such as bending) and requires chemical doping. To address this problem, the scientists embedded the conducting layer into a polyimide (PI) substrate, filling the void spaces in the nanotubes.

Their resulting prototype shows real promise. Only 7 micrometers thick, the composite film exhibited exceptional resistance to bending, almost 80% transparency, and a power conversion efficiency of 15.2%, the most ever achieved in solar cells using carbon nanotube conductors.

This is another step in developing novel technologies and hopefully with more research solar energy industry will soon start producing much more efficient as well as more flexible solar panels.

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