Covering any and all things with solar panels would be an awesome way to get power, but the bulk and expense of the tech we've got today makes it a little less than practical. But wonder-material-at-large graphene is shaking up the scene with ultra-thin solar panels and, maybe someday, solar-powered paint.
Graphene is plenty impressive on its own, but when it teams up with other atom-thick materials, the results only get more impressive. In this case, researchers at the University of Manchester sandwiched super-thin sheets of something called transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDC) and managed to create photovoltaic devices that are both extremely sensitive and thin enough to be effectively two dimensional.
Kostya Novoselov, one of the scientists who initially discovered graphene, described the research as pushing the talented material past its already impressive limits. Novoselov put it this way to the Telegraph:
We have been trying to go beyond graphene by combining it with other one atom thick materials. What we have been doing is putting different layers of these materials one on top of the other and what you get is a new type of material with a unique set of properties. ...It is like a book – one page contains some information but together the book is so much more.
The awesome end-game for this tech would be graphene-powered photovoltaic paint that could make "installing" solar panels practically an afterthought. And while that's on the to-do list, Novoselov says it's much further down the line.