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Sandia's New Solar Cells Put Power in the Palm of Your Hand

July 26, 2010

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Solar power has been seen as a major wave of our energy future in the West for some time, but there have also been concerns over where to site the big, clunky and expensive photo-voltaic (PV) panels. That could all be changing very soon, thanks to a team of scientists including Greg Nielson of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.

He says they've developed solar cells that are much smaller, cheaper and more efficient than the current technology. But that's not all: He says these power plants of the future can also bend.

"You could put the PV cells into the curved surface of a car, or on curved surfaces of a facade for a building, for some fancy building-integrated PV applications."

Unlike current solar cells, the new technology is also less picky about needing direct sunlight without any shading. That means it could perform better in mobile applications, such as on the exterior of a car, because orientation towards the sun would be less of a concern.

Nielson says there's still more to be done on working out manufacturing and permitting processes for the next generation of solar power, and he hopes to see a continued investment in solar and all other renewable technologies, because the potential payoff is big.

"It would be great to invest significantly more in R and D for photo-voltaics. If you look at the current budget, it's relatively low and I think additional money spent in PV R and D, that would be money that is well spent."

Nielson says they've already seen a lot of interest from companies and governments. He expects the new, tiny solar cells may begin to pop up on cell phones, laptops, tents and even clothing in the not-too-distant future.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM