First silicon-based solar cell fabrics
This is the first silicon-based optical fiber with solar cell characteristics
A team of researchers is working on solar cell fabrics that could catch sunlight from various angles and one day power devices like smartphones.
John Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, along with an international team of scientists, have developed the first silicon-based optical fiber with solar cell characteristics that can be scaled up to many meters in length.
Badding and the team created a fiber out of crystalline silicon semiconductor materials that are capable of also acting as a solar cell. This was made possible by creating a thinner fiber that has its own integrated electronic component. This means it doesn’t need to integrate fiber-optics with chips.
High-pressure chemistry techniques inserted the semiconducting materials into small holes in the optical fibers layer-by-layer. The end result was a silicon-based optical fiber that curves and twists, allowing sunlight to be collected at various angles.
Weaving together the silicon, solar cell wires can create fabrics capable of generating electrical power. This could be beneficial for smartphone and tablet batteries with short lifespans.
“Our goal is to extend high-performance electronic and solar-cell function to longer lengths and to more flexible forms. We already have made meters-long fibers but, in principle, our team’s new method could be used to create bendable silicon solar-cell fibers of over 10 meters in length,” said Badding. “Long, fiber-based solar cells give us the potential to do something we couldn’t really do before: We can take the silicon fibers and weave them together into a fabric with a wide range of applications such as power generation, battery charging, chemical sensing, and biomedical devices.”