Peel-and-stick thin-film solar cells recently developed at Stanford University offer a new way to conquer the obstacles posed by traditional thin-film solar technologies.
Modern thin-film solar cells must be fabricated directly onto the final carrier substrate, which is typically a rigid silicon or glass product. The stiff, heavy panels that result limit their placement.
However, the peel-and-stick prototypes developed at Stanford allow the solar cells to attach to any surface – the research team applied solar cells to items including a mobile phone, a business card, and a window with no resulting efficiency loss. If commercially released, the stickers would offer a significantly more flexible approach to PV retrofits.
The peel-and-stick process involves removing the thin metal wafer and thermal release tape that sandwich the solar cells. In testing, peeling off the thermal tape reliably left the cells intact and functional, and the metal wafer emerged undamaged and ready for reuse after its removal, notes Xiaolin Zheng, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and senior author of the study.
Solar decal manufacturing can be completed without modifying any existing processes, facilities, or materials, which eliminates the cost premium of producing the new technology commercially.
“Now you can put them on helmets, cell phones, convex windows, portable electronic devices, curved roofs, clothing – virtually anything,” Zheng notes.