Virginia Tech researchers have produced flexible solar panels that can become part of window shades or wallpaper. The material will capture light from the sun as well as light from sources inside buildings.

The solar modules, less than half-a-millimeter thick, are created through a screen-printing process. Low-temperature titanium oxide paste creates five-layer, flexible panels similar to tiles in one’s bathroom.

Thee tiles can be combined together to cover large areas; an individual panel, roughly the size of a person’s palm, provides about 75 milliwatts of power, meaning a panel the size of a standard sheet of paper could easily recharge a typical smartphone.

Most silicon-based panels can absorb only sunlight. The flexible panels, however, are constructed to absorb diffused light, such as that produced by LED, incandescent, and fluorescent fixtures.

"The scalability of being able to create the panels in sheet rolls means you could wallpaper your home in these panels to run everything from your alarm system, to recharging your devices, to powering your LED lights,” said Shashank Priya, the Robert E. Hord Jr. Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering.

The panels, Priya said, can also be made to any design, including shades and curtains that absorb sunlight through windows.


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