New flexible solar cell may help power the wearables of tomorrow

We live in a world full of fantastic technology – flexible screens, wearable gadgets, and virtual reality headsets no longer raise eyebrows.

However, there’s a weak link that keeps our technological progress on a leash – batteries. Even the most advanced electronic gadgetry requires a power source, and if we want to enjoy our untethered freedom, we have to rely on batteries.

An international research team may help keep your next Apple Watch away from the charging dock with a new invention. Scientists at RIKEN in Japan, with collaborators from The University of Tokyo, The University of California, the Australian Synchrotron, and Monash University, have created a new flexible solar cell ten times thinner than a human hair.

“Our ultra-flexible solar cells can simultaneously achieve an improved power conversion efficiency, excellent mechanical properties, and robust stability. This makes them a very promising candidate as a power source in wearable electronics”, Dr. Wenchao Huang, Research Fellow in Monash University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, said.

The new solar cell can generate 9.9 watts per gram and can run for more than 20,000 hours (2.5 years) with minimal degradation. Furthermore, with its thickness of just 3 micrometers and an easily scalable manufacturing process, this solar cell could be used to charge the batteries in many future technologies such as smartwatches, IoT (Internet of Things) devices, and biosensors. Don’t rush to throw the charger away, though. We’ll probably have to wait a couple of years, at least, before this technology makes its way to commercial products.


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