You usually see solar cells on houses and buildings; those aren't the only things they can power, obviously, but they're too rigid to be adaptable enough to put most other places. Finally, though, Stanford researchers have invented the flexible photovaltaics that peel and stick like decals. Can you say solar-powered business card?
These flimsier solar cells don't have to be applied to a hard final layer, which lets them move more than their firmer counterparts. The new versions can be attached to pretty much anything, like a sticker. Phys.org explains the how these cells are created:
First, a 300-nanometer film of nickel (Ni) is deposited on a silicon/silicon dioxide (Si/SiO2) wafer. Thin-film solar cells are then deposited on the nickel layer utilizing standard fabrication techniques, and covered with a layer of protective polymer. A thermal release tape is then attached to the top of the thin-film solar cells to augment their transfer off of the production wafer and onto a new substrate.
So what does this mean in practical terms? You could theoretically use adhesive solar cells to power pretty much anything: cellphones, portable gadgets, watches, smart clothing, homes, etc. And there's potential that flexy photovaltaics could facilitate the creation of new products we've never even heard of. And you thought sticker tech peaked at scratch-n-sniff. [Phys.org]
Image credit: Chi Hwan Lee, Stanford School of Engineering