New solar cells can be printed on paper or fabric
Finally, your dream of solar pants (that don't look douchey) can come true! MIT researchers have devised solar panels that can be printed directly onto fabric, plastic, or paper, as easily as printing from an inkjet. The result is a flexible, malleable solar panel with enough juice to power … well, okay, barely any juice at all right now. But it's still in the early stages of development! Besides, once you pair your solar pants with a solar shirt, tie, bag, fedora, and shoes, it'll start to add up, and you will also look very snappy.
Scientists have been toying with solar printing technology for a while, but it generally requires high temperatures and pretreated material. The new process can operate at cooler temperatures, and actually prints with a vapor instead of a liquid ink — scientists compare it to manufacturing the inside lining a bag of chips. The printing is done inside a vacuum, and "cooler" temperatures means "less than 250 degrees," so you're probably not going to be doing it at home or anything. But it's miles easier than any approach that's been tested so far. And the resulting panels, though they are currently only efficient enough to power "a small gadget," can be folded and crumpled without losing function. Put that in your pipe and … take it out, unfold it, and power a small gadget with it!
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