Looking forward to long days with lot of sunshine made me check out what’s up in the research kitchen regarding wearable solar technology, speak flexible and hopefully lower cost solar panels.
My most promising find: Konarka, one of the hot favorites in the field of wearable solar power working on Power Plastic® that converts light to energy. This simple yet powerful mission of Konarka moved them to the forefront not only in research and development but very close to actual manufacturing of the first Power Plastic® materials.
The advantages of Power Plastic® will be: inexpensive, lightweight and flexible – just the stuff needed to be build power into Wearable Electronic products enabling them to have their own low cost embedded sources of renewable energy.
In a recent press release Konarka announced a first-ever demonstration of Inkjet Printed Solar Cells.
‘Demonstrating the use of Inkjet printing technology as a fabrication tool for highly efficient solar cells and sensors with small area requirements is a major milestone,’ commented Rick Hess, president and CEO at Konarka.
How does it work? Inkjet printing is a commonly used technique for controlled deposition of solutions of functional materials in specific locations on a substrate and can provide easy and fast deposition of polymer films over a large area. That’s scientist language explaining the function of an good old Inkjet printer I am sure most of our reader know and have connected to the computer.
This demonstration from Konarka confirms that organic solar cells can be processed with printing technologies with little or no loss compared to ‘clean room’ semiconductor technologies such as spin coating.
The advantage of this solar cell printing technology is the simpler and cheaper manufacturing setup required and the possibility to print solar cells on different materials like plastic and potentially on fabrics.
It is not expected to create high power solar cells in this way but powerful enough to collect light supplying products like sensors that have lower power requirements.
When will Power Plastic® become available for use? No clear signal yet out of Konarka but this will also depend on how ‘hot’ the interest from the market will be to use the Power Plastic® in commercial products.
If the solar bag trend that started last year continuous or becomes even hotter = bigger this year, Power Plastic® might be put on the fast track to commercialization.
Wherever there is light there will be (soon) power in your clothing and bags.