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Flexible Solar Panels
panels are devices that convert light into electricity, also known as
photovoltaics. The panel is a collection of solar cells and uses a water
form of silicon to absorb the light. The typical rigid modules are costly
and heavy. New to the market are flexible modules.
These flexible solar panels are light weight and thin. They can be rolled
up for easy storage. The most common flexible modules on the market
can produce up to 25 watts. They are idea for outdoor applications like
camping and marine use. They are also low cost compared to the standard
rigid panels. The flexible modules are created using a thin film technology.
Thin film technology involves the process of applying thin layers of
photoactive material to a flexible medium.
Current technology for flexible solar panels creates limited energy
but new technology is on the horizon. This new technology uses much
less material and is less labor intensive. The panels are paper thin.
This came from the discovery that polymers (plastics) can absorb sunlight.
Combining this polymer with an ink-like electrical conductor creates
a liquid that can be painted or printed onto a thin sheet.
This technology is slated to be available by 2010. It will be more effective
than traditional panels by about ten to fifteen percent and can also
absorb reflected and diffused light. The possible uses are numerous.
It could be rolled out onto roof tops, or painted on buildings. It could
also be used as a window tint to not only absorb sunlight but protect
one from it as well. This material could be painted or rolled out onto
the roof of a vehicle to run a vehicle off of solar power.
Another option for flexible panels that is being researched is the use
of organic solar cells. Scientists are finding certain forms of carbon
in tiny tubules can also absorb sunlight and conduct electricity. Research
is still being preformed to find out the possible sources and uses of
these organic cells.
Solar panels now face some obstacles which technology is working hard
to overcome. One issue is heat. Solar energy comes from light, not heat.
When a cell gets too hot the voltage drops. Keeping the cells at an
idea temperature while still collecting optimal sunlight is an issue
being heavily researched now. Another issue is the inability to absorb
light during nocturnal hours and heavy weather. The newer thin cells
will be able to absorb some reflected and diffused light but scientists
are working hard on cells sensitive enough to collect light during storms
and some of the brighter nights. Panels that are covered by shade will
not absorb nearly as much energy either. If just one cell is shaded
power production is limited by half.
Overall flexible solar panels have a long way to come. The ones currently
on the market are great for powering phone chargers and mp3 players,
but don’t put out much more energy than that. This small amount
of voltage has useful applications for camping, boating, and other outdoor
recreation but won’t take you very far in the powering of common
appliances in the home-yet. Currently humans are starting an energy
revolution and more viable options are on the horizon.
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