Researchers at the University of Southern California have tipped our friend Graphene as the best material for electrodes in a new design for a flexible organic solar cell. The new design could lead to photovoltaics so flexible they could one day be made into fabric, the researchers say.
Researcher Gomez de Arco speculates: "They could be hung as curtains in homes or even made into fabric and be worn as power generating clothing. I can imagine people powering their cellular phone ... while jogging in the sun.”
The Californian technique for producing graphene was first published three years ago. It starts with creating a thin film of graphene through vapour deposition on nickel. The graphene layer is then coated in a thermo-plastic layer while the nickel is dissolved in an acid bath and subsequently sandwiched to a flexible polymer sheet.
According to the publicity material, the team has now produced sheets “in sizes up to 150 square centimeters [sic] that in turn can be used to create dense arrays of flexible OPV cells”
The USC team is not the only group working on the problem of making bendy solar cells, but they think their design trumps at least one competing idea, a cell using Indium Tin Oxide as the cell's electrode. The ITO cells tolerate much less bending than the graphene based films.