These solar panels are 100 times thinner than a human hair and could power wearable technology revolution

A team of researchers in South Korea have developed solar panels so thin and flexible that they can be wrapped around the frame of a pair of glasses, as a matter of fact these solar panels are much thinner than the average human hair which is  typically about 100 micrometres! The researchers said the new material was easily flexible enough to wrap around a pencil. And in tests they found it would still work when wrapped around something just 1.4mm wide.

These panels are hundreds of times thinner than standard solar panels and three to four times thinner than most of the slimmest solar cells that are currently available. According to Professor Jongho Lee, an engineer at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, their panels were “less fragile under bending, but perform similarly or even slightly better” to panels 3.5 micrometres across.

According to the researchers, the ultra-thin solar cells were made using a semiconductor, gallium arsenide. After which, they were then stamped on to a flexible material, avoiding the need for an adhesive that would add to its thickness. The cells were “cold-welded” to an electrode. Although some other researchers had made solar panels of around one micrometre thick before using a different technique, called etching, professor Lee’s team believes that their method of transfer printing could enable highly flexible photovoltaic cells to be made with a smaller amount of materials.

These panels will be a potential breakthrough for wearable electronics, they could be used to provide power for smart glasses or incorporated into clothing to power wearable technology.

Solar panel refers to a panel designed to absorb the sun’s rays as a source of energy for generating electricity or heating. There are two types of solar panels, those that collect heat (thermal), and those that produce electricity (photovoltaic). Heat from solar panels is often used for space heating and for hot water.

Solar panels are often mounted on rooftops. Commercial or industrial installations are often on trackers mounted on the ground. The trackers point the panel towards the sun as the sun moves across the sky. Solar panels are also commonly used in outer space, where they are one of the few power sources available.

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