Fiber solar cells will revolutionize the commercial use of solar energy. Fiber cells are the first organic solar cells to achieve high efficiency at a fraction of the manufacturing cost of existing inorganic solar cells. The multiple competitive advantages compared to flat solar cells will drive global demand for organic fiber cells.
Solar cells are photovoltaic devices that convert light into electricity. The majority of commercially available solar cells are known as flat cells, utilizing inorganic materials such as silicon. The efficiency of flat cell technology depends on the angle of the sun’s rays, and considerable energy is lost to reflection unless the sun is directly above. In addition, over 50 percent of incoming solar energy can be lost as heat. This heat energy could be converted to useable energy through the incorporation of solar thermal features.
Fiber solar cells contain an array of tiny plastic organic fibers that can capture light from any angle. The curved surface of each fiber acts as a lens to focus light on a portion of the fiber that converts light to electrical energy. Light rays become trapped inside the fibers due to internal reflection, essentially resulting in complete absorption. The fibers can also be tuned to absorb visible light, ultraviolet light, infrared light or a combination. An integrated layer of thermal collection fluid can further enhance energy production by collecting waste heat.
Benefits of Fiber Solar Cells
- Organic fiber cells are inexpensive to manufacture relative to inorganic solar cells, providing a strong cost advantage over existing technology.
- Structure design creates more surface area than crystalline inorganic solar cells.
- Fiber cells absorb nearly 100% of light from any angle, where existing solar cells lose considerable energy to surface reflection.
- Fiber cells are lightweight and flexible enough to be molded to any surface.
- Alternative form of technology incorporates thermal collection fluid to capture heat waste for additional electrical generation (Solar Thermal Lateral Fiber Cell, Ref # WFU 10-42).
- Lighting, heating, battery charging and powering devices
- Flexible solar cells on surfaces unsuitable for rigid materials
- Installation in any orientation on buildings as alternative energy
- Power production in developing countries
David Carroll, PhD
Manoj Namboothiry, PhD
Jiwen Liu, PhD
Charlie Shaw, PhD