This Solar Cell Can Be Soaked in Water

This Solar Cell Can Be Soaked in Water


Photo of the ultra-thin organic solar cells

Ever wanted a wearable solar cell you could throw in the laundry? Of course you have! Who hasn’t wanted to wash a power source without causing a calamity?

Scientists from RIKEN and the University of Tokyo have achieved just that – they’ve created a new ultra-thin photovoltaic device that can survive being doused with water or stretched and compressed. Coated on both sides with stretchable and waterproof films, this new device allows for the development of wearable photovoltaics that, according to the researchers, long-term stability in both air and water, energy efficiency, and robustness including resistance to deformation.

That, in turn, allows for the placement of wearable sensors (with a solar power source) that could, among other things, record a host of medical data like heartbeats and body temperature.

While most of this technology existed previously, it couldn’t be permanently embedded in robust clothing, with the entire structure waterproof and resistant to deformation. In other words, you won’t have to constantly add and remove the solar cells and medical sensors.

How’d they accomplish this? According to RIKEN’s press release, the flexible organic photovoltaic cells were based on an existing material called PNTz4T. They then “deposited the device in an inverse architecture, which they had previously developed, onto a 1-um-thick parylene film. The ultra-thin device was then placed onto acrylic-based elastomer and the top side of the device was coated with an identical elastomer, giving it a coating on both sides to prevent water infiltration.”

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