January 11, 2008 PowerFilm demonstrated a very cool USB+2 AA battery flexible folding charger at CES 2009. We were lucky enough to snap a few pictures of the device and get a look at some samples of their amorphous silicon solar technology for printing cells onto fabric or other materials.
Powerfilm's solar panels are created using a thin-film process, which is to say that rather than building to rigid cells out of silicon wafers, they deposit or "print" material onto the surface that they desire to make discrete solar cells. They process yields cells that absorb about 5% of the sunlight that hit them, which is 4 times less than the 20% that's common amongst crystalline solar cells, but as considerable lower cost per watt, and with a tiny fraction of the actual silicon. The only draw back is that a larger area is needed to catch sunlight than with higher light absorbing technology.
We were fascinated by their combination USB+AA charger, folded up neatly and looked durable enough for even the most demanding camper. Charging batteries could be achieved in few hours in direct sunlight, and handheld gadgets could be charged directly via the built in USB port.
More information is available via their website: http://www.powerfilmsolar.com.