Building facades, roof tiles and car bonnets could soon incorporate colourful, pliable solar panels to supplement their conventional power sources. Spheral Solar Power have produced flexible, efficient solar cells that produce electricity at a lower cost and open up an array of new applications for renewable energy.
The denim-like material consists of thousands of tiny silicon beads bonded in aluminium foil - each bead acts like an individual solar cell and the uneven surface offers a larger area for light collection. Production costs can be kept down through the use of recycled silicon and this, coupled with efficiency comparable to standard photovoltaic cells and the versatility of a flexible material gives Spheral Solar Cells the potential to dramatically expand the use of renewable energy.
Building design can draw on hundreds of shapes, styles and colours to seamlessly integrate the solar cells. The Spheral cells can be used to reflect light from or transmit light into the building and their versatility extends to use in corporate logos.
In roof tiles the cell can be incorporated into a curved substrate opening up a range of market applications and automobile manufacturers may have found an aerodynamic alternative to rigid photovoltaic cells that are impractical in terms of vehicle design.
Commercial production of the flexible cells expected to begin in late 2003.