U.S. Navy Research Laboratory (NRL) scientists have proposed a new method for manufacturing ultrathin, flexible silicon solar cells.
According to the scientists, the new process alters off-the-shelf crystalline silicon cells to curve in a certain way, without sacrificing performance or raising costs.
Most silicon solar cells available today tend to be bulky and glass-like, making them unsuitable for military applications as bending damages them.
NRL’s new patented process could thus be a game changer, asserts NRL electrical engineer and principle researcher, Dr. Woojun Yoon.
Cells created this way could provide critical flexibility for both commercial and military applications, intones Yoon.
It could help enhance operational capability, improve energy efficiency, and reduce reliance on supply lines for fuel.
According to the scientists, the new process mechanically thins commercial off-the-shelf crystalline silicon solar cells that have rear-junctions and rear contacts.
Known as inter-digitated back contact (IBC) solar cells, contacts on the back of these cells reduce shadow impacts and yield additional power.
The off-the-shelf solar cells that the researchers plan to alter are already highly efficient, yet not as readily available as other solar cells.
According to co-inventor and electrical engineer David Scheiman, the new low-cost cells could help expand the range of application that solar cells can be used for.
These include: unmanned aerial vehicles, mobile solar markets, and other military applications.
The private industry too could benefit from this technology by integrating them into their products, be it cars or homes, notes Scheiman.
The new process is the second ultrathin solar cell manufacturing design by the researchers.
In early December 2018, Yoon’s team submitted a patent application for a method of manufacturing ultrathin flexible mono- and multi-crystalline silicon solar cells.
That method was said to reduce the total thickness of a commercially available cell to approximately 30 microns and ensure its silicon surface don’t crack when bent.
Yoon contends that the new thin flexible crystalline solar cells could come in handy while creating mobile solar powered generation systems such as transportable solar blankets and unmanned vehicles.
Image and content: NRL