MIT researchers have developed a new manufacturing process for producing sheets of high-quality graphene that could lead to a new generation of flexible solar cells. The method is particularly exciting because the process should be easy to replicate at industrial scale, according to MIT News.
The process involves a buffer layer that allows the graphene sheet to be easily lifted from its native copper substrate after production, which could pave the way to rapid, repeatable roll-to-roll manufacturing.
It has been a goal of research groups for years to successfully produce large-area transparent electrodes that remain stable in open air, which have hopeful applications for devices that harvest or emit light, like solar cells and smartphone screens, respectively. Today’s version of those technologies is made using indium tin oxide (ITO), which is made from pricey and difficult-to-find materials.
The team’s prototype solar cell improved on the delivered power per weight as compared to ITO by approximately 36 times. It also uses 1/200th of the amount of material. The breakthrough could make it possible for ultra-lightweight graphene-based devices.
Study co-author Giovanni Azzellino said, “What if we could deploy a transparent solar cell on your tablet that is able to power up the tablet itself?”