Thanks to one UCLA scientist, the future of solar power may be more flexible than you had imagined.
Yang Yang, a researcher with the university’s School of Engineering, announced on Feb. 13 that he had set a new power-conversion world record for his signature brand of cheap, flexible organic polymer solar cells. After integrating a new infrared-absorbing material into the polymer, Yang was able to record a power-conversion efficiency of 10.6 percent. The new world record, which was certified by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, eclipsed Yang’s previous organic polymer power-conversion efficiency world record of 8.62 percent set in July 2011.
Yang says that in five years, he fully expects to increase his solar cells’ efficiency to 15 or 20 percent, which would result in solar cells strong enough to power cars and cell phones. And since the organic polymer solar cells can be manufactured in thin, bendable sheets, the possibilities for use are almost endless. Not only could they be cut and pasted on an electric car’s roof or the back of a cell phone, but they could be hung in front of windows like roll-down shades or stuck on house rooftops.
Personally, we’re already looking forward to the rolled-up solar cell sheet that we can stick in the trunk of our car for instant battery power wherever we go. A few universal adapters that connect the sheet to the battery compartments or recharging ports in consumer electronics and the possibilities really will be endless.
“UCLA Scientists Invent Cheap, Bendy Solar Panels That Could Charge Your Car, Phone,” LA Weekly, Feb. 13, 2012.
“UCLA Engineers Create Tandem Polymer Solar Cells That Set Record For Energy-Conversion,” UCLA press release, Feb. 13, 2012.