New technology to increase solar power use

Sept. 11, 2003 at 5:09 PM
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PRINCETON, N.J., Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Princeton University electrical engineers have invented a technique for making new solar cells that could yield a more economical source of energy.

As reported in the Sept. 11 issue of Nature, scientists have moved closer to making a new class of solar cell that while not as efficient as conventional ones, could prove to be vastly less expensive and more versatile. Solar cells, or photovoltaics, convert light to electricity and are used to power many devices, from calculators to satellites.

The new photovoltaics are made from "organic" materials, which consist of small carbon-containing molecules, as opposed to the conventional inorganic, silicon-based materials. The materials are ultra-thin and flexible and could be applied to large surfaces.

Organic solar cells could be manufactured in a process something like printing or spraying the materials onto a roll of plastic, said Peter Peumans, a graduate student in the electrical engineering lab at Princeton.

"In the end, you would have a sheet of solar cells that you just unroll and put on a roof," he said.

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