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Posted Tue Apr 13 2010: from New Scientist:
Skip the hard cell: Flexible solar power is on its way
So, the sceptics say, solar cells are only ever likely to be a small, disproportionately expensive part of our future energy mix. In the temperate, oft-cloudy climes of much of Europe and North America, satisfying the population's electricity needs with photovoltaics alone would mean plastering something like 5 to 15 per cent of the land surface with them. Such criticisms might be tempered by a new generation of solar cells about to flop off the production line. Slim, bendy and versatile, they consume just a fraction of the materials - and costs - of a traditional photovoltaic device. They could be just the fillip solar power needs, opening the way to a host of new applications: solar-charged cellphones and laptops, say, or slimline generators that sit almost invisibly on a building's curved surfaces or even its windows.... So why the fuss, if these devices are no more efficient than what went before? The key is that although these cells are merely as efficient as conventional devices, they use only about a hundredth of the material. What's more, they are highly flexible: grown on a bed of silicon, Atwater's microrod arrays can simply be peeled off and stuck pretty much wherever you want. "They could even be integrated into buildings, as components that match the shape of roof tiles," says Atwater.
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