The Loh Down On Science

Solar Cells

New high-quality solar panels, as thin as film negatives, could be attached to any material. Picture... power-generating pants!

Solar. . . mini skirts?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

And with a new technology that's sure to get you hot.

Traditional solar panels are essentially silicon wafers under glass, strung together with electricity-conducting metal. Most tend to be bulky, and stiff--

But not anymore! John Rogers, from the University of Illinois, found a way to loosen them up.

He sliced paper-thin silicon into sections about a hundred times THINNER, then diced it into cubes. The chips-off-the-old-block were then cemented onto sheets of plastic. Finally, he connected the dots with pliable strips of metal. Poof! High-quality solar panels as flexible as film negatives.

The technology's already been licensed to a start-up in North Carolina. The sun-harvesting sheets could be made in any size or shape. . . say, a retractable window shade. Or giant e-skins for airplanes that produce energy on the fly.

The solar cells themselves are virtually transparent, and can be attached to ANY material. Imagine: Office windows turned into power grids, and energy-producing clothes. It's sun. . . city!

Talk about hot pants in Florida! No let's not.


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