U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Solar Power Researchers Pursuing New, Innovative Materials
March 9, 2005
The latest wave of research in solar photovoltaic cells aims to boost
their efficiency while incorporating them into flexible plastics,
lightweight foils, and even textiles. Konarka Technologies, Inc.
announced in mid-February that it will work with a leading Swiss
university to develop photovoltaic fabrics that will allow tents,
shirts, hats—you name it—to generate power. Konarka is already
known for its flexible plastic solar material (the company calls it
"light-activated power plastic") and was recently awarded a $500,000
grant from the National Science Foundation to improve its performance.
See the February 16th and March 2nd press releases from Konarka.
While Konarka's power plastic is intended for down-to-earth uses,
DayStar Technologies, Inc. is producing a high-efficiency flexible
solar material better suited for high-altitude aircraft or space
vehicles. DayStar's new "LightFoil" consists of a high-efficiency
copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film solar cell deposited
onto a thin, lightweight titanium foil. With the ability to convert
15.2 percent of the sunlight that hits it into electricity, the
LightFoil has produced 1,440 Watts of power per kilogram of material
in laboratory tests. According to DayStar, that's a record production
of solar power per weight, about 50 percent better than today's
thin-film devices. The material is also flexible and can be cut to shape,
making it ideal for covering surfaces of aircraft or space vehicles.
DayStar is currently developing a manufacturing process for the
material, with a commercial goal of producing at least 1,000 Watts per
kilogram of material. The company expects to have engineering samples
available by early this summer. See the DayStar Technologies press