Researchers develop PV cell 100 times thinner than a human hair
Scientists at South Korea’s Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology have just developed a solar panel so thin it can be wrapped around a pencil.
At just a micrometre wide, the PV cells are thinner than a single human hair or a coat of paint, which both measure up at around 100 micrometres. The slimmest solar cells currently available are still three to four times thicker than their newly-invented counterpart.
Professor Jongho Lee, an engineer at the Gwangju Institute, said his team’s panels were “less fragile under bending, but perform similarly or even slightly better” than panels with a width of 3.5 micrometres.
When the scientists tested the efficiency of the tiny panels, it was found that they are capable of converting sunlight to electricity at a rate comparable to thicker photovoltaics.
The researchers ‘stamped’ the cells, made from the semiconductor gallium arsenide, directly onto a flexible substrate without using an adhesive that would ultimately thicken the material. The cells were then cold welded to the electrode on the substrate using pressure applied at 170 degrees celsius.
Some experts believe the PV cells mark the start of an era in which portable electronics, like mobile phones and fitness trackers, may be powered by the sun’s rays.
The scientists’ full findings have been published in Applied Physics Letters.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.