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Ultrathin Solar Cells for Stretchable Applications

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LINZ, Austria, April 6, 2012 — An ultrathin flexible organic solar cell less than 2 µm thick could have implications for the design of future flexible electronic devices.

Scientists from Johannes Kepler University Linz and the University of Tokyo developed the stretchable organic solar cells based on an ultrathin polymer substrate. The new solar cells are capable of generating 10 W/g.

An ultrathin (less than 2 µm) organic solar cell is so flexible that it can be used for stretchable applications. The cell pictured is glued to a prestretched elastomer. The random network of wrinkles that form upon relaxation allow for repeated stretching under continuous operation. (Images: Martin Kaltenbrunner)

The solar cells, which maintain their performance after being stretched repeatedly, display a power conversion efficiency equal to that of their glass counterparts. They could be used in applications such as robotics, synthetic skin or e-textiles.

“In all these areas, it is important that the cells are not only powerful, but also light and flexible,” said Dr. Martin Kaltenbrunner of the Institute of Experimental Physics. “Many things you cannot install rigid cells.”

An ultrathin organic solar cell is so flexible that it can be used for stretchable or surface-conforming electronics. The cell pictured here is glued to a prestretched elastomer, biaxially compressed, and then pushed out of plane by a plastic tube.

Follow-up projects are being conducted at Johannes Kepler University.

“The basic system is also applicable to electrical circuits,” Kaltenbrunner said. “This is of course extremely interesting for the industry.”

This research was published in Nature Communications.

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Apr 2012
Asia-PacificAustriaCommunicationse-textileselectrical circuitsenergyEuropeflexible electronicsflexible organic solar cellsgreen photonicsInstitute of Experimental PhysicsJapanJohannes Kepler University LinzMartin KaltenbrunnerResearch & Technologyroboticssolar cellsstretchable polymer-based solar cellssynthetic skinUniversity of Tokyo

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