Team of scientists led by Penn State professor produces first-ever solar-cell fiber

Written By: Thatcher Michelsen December 7, 2012 0
A team led by a Penn State professor is working on a novel way to create fiber optics that utilize solar energy gathering components.
A team led by a Penn State professor is working on a novel way to create fiber optics that utilize solar energy gathering components.

The work of an international team of scientists, chemists and engineers, led by Penn State's John Badding, has resulted in the world's first silicon-based optical fiber with the capacity to conduct electricity through solar cells. Although this technology is still in its infancy, the experiments conducted by Badding's group have yielded a material that can be scaled for several meters and could one day be used in a wide variety of applications.

In an official press release from the university, Badding explained that his team's creation was a departure from traditional solar power technologies.

"A solar cell is usually made from a glass or plastic substrate onto which hydrogenated amorphous silicon has been grown," he was quoted as saying. "Such a solar cell is created using an expensive piece of equipment called a PECVD reactor and the end result is something flat with little flexibility. But woven, fiber-based solar cells would be lightweight, flexible configurations that are portable, foldable, and even wearable."

As for its uses, the new form of connection could be placed in next-generation telephone wires that are capable of generating their own electricity. Additionally, bulky and inefficient medical implants could be replaced with smaller ones that consume less energy, enabling those devices to be more sturdy and have longer working lives.

Badding added in his statement that the technology could be used to change the way that traditional solar panels are built and deployed. Unlike current models that rely on the position of the sun to function, the new optic wires could be fine-tuned to a building's shape, allowing it to create its own power during all daylight hours. However this new innovation is deployed, it's sure to change the way that people access sources of clean energy.

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