When you think about how to power a distributed network of environmental sensors–the kind we’ll want to have in order to connect the entirety of our physical world to the Internet of Things–the answer is obvious: solar power. Most of these sensors are by nature too tiny to have access to much of a temperature gradient, and a steady supply of vibrations isn’t always available. Batteries have limited lifespans and add bulk and expense.
That’s one of the reasons that organic and polymer-based solar cells are so interesting, particularly the latest development: A polymer-based (i.e. plastic) solar cell thinner than spider silk that can be bent and crumpled and still produces power.
From the abstract of the paper announcing their development:
These ultrathin organic solar cells are over ten times thinner, lighter and more flexible than any other solar cell of any technology to date.
This solar plastic only converts 4.2 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity, which is awful by the standards of conventional polycrystalline solar cells, but absolutely miraculous when you consider how thin and versatile this material could be.
For example, Tsuyoshi Sekitani from the University of Tokyo, one of the researchers on this project, told the AFP that this material could be worn on clothing like a badge, to power a personal health monitor. So why not a thin film under a protective shield, on the back of gadgets, so that prolonging their battery life is as simple as leaving them in a sunny spot?
When it comes to the Internet of Things, tiny sensors require tiny amounts of energy, and that’s exactly what organic solar cells can provide. Price and size are the factors that will determine whether or not they become ubiquitous, and this announcement suggests that it’s only a matter of time before both requirements are met by organic solar cells.
Embracing CX in the metaverse
More than just meeting customers where they are, the metaverse offers opportunities to transform customer experience.
Identity protection is key to metaverse innovation
As immersive experiences in the metaverse become more sophisticated, so does the threat landscape.
The modern enterprise imaging and data value chain
For both patients and providers, intelligent, interoperable, and open workflow solutions will make all the difference.
Scientists have created synthetic mouse embryos with developed brains
The stem-cell-derived embryos could shed new light on the earliest stages of human pregnancy.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.