Not long ago, solar cells were all huge, heavy, stiff devices. Recently that's been changing — and the latest development is a new breed of cells which are thinner than spider silk and can even be wrapped around objects as small as a human hair.
According to research published in Nature Communications, a team of scientists from Austria and Japan has created these new, thin-film soar cells that are just 1.9 micrometers thick. That's over 10 times thinner than any other solar cells ever made, and is thinner than a thread of spider silk.
Made from electrodes layered onto plastic foil, the devices are also incredibly flexible, which means they can be wrapped up tight — even around a human hair — without being damaged. Tsuyoshi Sekitani, one of the researchers, explains to PhysOrg:
"Being ultra-thin means you don't feel its weight and it is elastic... As this device is soft, it is less prone to damage by bending even if it gets bigger."
The only downside is that they're not yet particularly efficient — but the researchers plan to have them on the market within five years. And then, I want a suit made out of the stuff. [Nature Communications via PhysOrg]