High power-per-weight, flexible, and stretchable ultra-thin solar cells

M. White and M. Kaltenbrunner
University of Vermont, Vermont, United States

Keywords: Perovskite, Solar Cell, Light Weight

There are many civilian and military applications where electrical power is required and the weight of the power station is the limiting factor. Our ultra-thin solar technology could be an ideal solution for many of these situations. Soldiers are often required to carry excessive weight in batteries, but are not limited by the area from which they can collect sunlight. Unmanned aerial drones and inflatables often have large surface areas, ideal for harvesting solar power, but would suffer from the increased weight of conventional solar cells. We present solar cells of approximately 3 micrometer total thickness, weighing roughly 5 grams per square meter, and converting 12% of the incident solar power to electrical power. This translates to a remarkable 23 kW/kg power-per-weight. For context, that is over double the output of a Boeing 777’s GE90 Jet Engine, and roughly 15% of the Space Shuttle main engine. Our solar cells also run on a fuel (photons) that is both free and massless. The operational stability of our devices is currently on the order of days, suitable for temporary use applications. We have demonstrated stretchable and flexible solar cells, as well as solar powered model aircraft of several designs.