In a follow-up to last week's Tech Briefs interview ("Will Flexible Solar Cells Soon Power Our Devices?"), researcher Jaana Vapaavuori answered an additional question:
"Do you envision flexible solar cells someday powering our devices – and playing a more mainstream role, thanks to mass production?"
Vapaavuori's response is below.
Jaana Vapaavuori: Naturally, we don't have a crystal ball to predict the future, but at the very least, the growing trend of wearable and IoT devices creates an emerging market for autonomously-powered technologies. According to the estimates made by CISCO, there will be a nearly threefold growth in the number of connected wearable devices when comparing the estimate of 2021 to the number of 2016 (325 million devices), and the market share of North-America is estimated to increase into 41%.
Thus, intensifying the research and development efforts in consumer-product integrated photovoltaics is justified when taking into account this market perspective. As mentioned earlier, increasing the device lifetime and decreasing the effective costs by making all the preparation steps and materials compatible to a roll-to-roll process should enable producing everyday devices powered by flexible photovoltaics. The remaining open questions are the time-frame of how long this will take, as well as the final cost of the product, which will define whether it will be mainly applied in expensive niche applications, or whether these technologies will be applied in all kinds of everyday gadgets.
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