Flexible solar panels



Flexible solar panels are cheaper to produce

Thin film solar panels have now been developed that can be used in backpacks, athletic apparel and even clothing. Such solar panels are flexible enough to be rolled up and thus easily transported from place to place. These solar panels can be used for camps and other power producing modules that require to constantly change location. Flexible solar panels use the same materials used for the conventional solar panels, but different production processes that allow the material to be deposited in thin films. The thickness of the material deposited is as low as 1 micrometer, compared to the 150 to 200 micrometers deposited in conventional cells. This technology of flexible solar panels has therefore also led to huge reduction in costs, which has boosted the establishment of solar power producing units. The portability has also led to increase in the number of applications. Thicknesses of 15 to 20 micrometers are found to be compatible with the idea of flexibility in solar panels.

Flexible solar panels are made by depositing thin layers of silicon on substrata that is flexible. This could be PET which is polythene terephthalate or other flexible material that also allows the sprayed on silicon to bend without compromising the structure. The manufacture of flexible solar cells has also an added advantage that it is easy to manufacture and allows reduction in manufacturing costs. This is enabled by spraying the silicon on large surfaces that can later be cut to the required sizes. The panels also become lightweight which further v reduces cost of setting up solar panels and the structures required to support them. Flexible solar panels are therefore manufactured in sizes that can be readily used to power or charge smaller batteries quite easily.

Technology for flexible solar panels was first developed for use in space. It is now used to provide power packs for automobiles, boats, tents, backpacks and lap top computers. 

Technology has also further advanced to using organic solar cells made from polymers which are much cheaper than the silicon cells and easier to make. Scientists are working towards developing techniques that will allow these organic solar cells to be printed or used in paint. This would enable even surfaces painted with organic solar cells to produce electricity.  So the times are not far away when buildings would use their paint layers to produce electricity. Thin film technology would even enable glass windows to become producers of electricity. The drastic reduction in costs that has come about after the introduction of thin film solar panels which are flexible has led to more people being attracted to this sphere of activity and thus more research being carried out to develop alternative solar cells as well as techniques to create the thin films needed. Cadmium telluride is cheaper than silicon cells but material in the cells tend to be toxic and therefore this technology may get ignored. Copper Indium Gallium or CIGS is also another low cost alternative being developed. Flexible solar cells have led to ideas that window tinting using such films could also allow power sources for air conditioning and lighting.