RESEARCH
March 23, 2009

Photovoltaic fiber boosts solar fabric prospects

Wrap one hair-thin stainless steel wire around another, cover them in clear plastic and you have a fiber that turns sunlight to electricity. The key is coating the wires with the right materials.

The first wire is 100 microns thick and has a three-layer coating that forms an organic solar cell. The middle, active layer is a mix of polymer and carbon buckyballs. The second wire is 50 microns thick and is coated with silver paste. The second wire is wrapped around the first. The intertwined wires are coated in a clear polymer.

The photovoltaic fiber converts about 3 percent of the light that hits it to electricity. This is more than three times the efficiency of previous photovoltaic fibers. The stainless steel gives the fiber strength, flexibility and the conductivity needed to transmit electricity over long distances. The first wire is the positive electrode and the second wire is the negative electrode. The plastic cover and the second wire's silver coating help concentrate sunlight onto the first wire.

Prototypes of the photovoltaic fiber are several hundred feet long. The photovoltaic fiber can be woven into fabric that could be used to make electricity-generating clothing and vehicle and building skins.

Research paper:
Solar Power Wires Based on Organic Photovoltaic Materials
Science, published online March 12, 2009

Researchers' homepage:
Konarka Technologies, Inc.


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