Photovoltaic cells made from organic polymers, rather than crystalline silicon, could make solar power much cheaper. Last year Konarka, a startup based in Lowell, MA, opened a factory for such solar panels, which are flexible and produced in a process akin to printing (see “Mass Production of Plastic Solar Cells”). The first application of Konarka’s potentially transformative technology? Umbrellas. SkyShades, based in Orlando, FL, is incorporating the panels into umbrellas designed for outdoor seating areas in places like restaurants and bars. Patrons can recharge mobile devices such as laptops and cell phones from outlets built into the stem of the umbrella. The four-meter-wide Powerbrella can generate up to 128 watts of electricity, which charges a bank of batteries located in its base.
Companies: Konarka, SkyShades
Other products in this section:
AI is here.
Own what happens next at EmTech Digital 2019.
Curbing emissions isn’t enough—we need emergency solutions for climate change
Top energy scientist Daniel Schrag says we have to adapt and innovate, because we’re already signed up for centuries of higher global temperatures.
Why lithium-ion may rule batteries for a long time to come
Materials scientist Gerd Ceder is overseeing a research effort to extend the capabilities of the dominant form of energy storage, using a new class of compounds.
How California could affordably reach 100 percent clean electricity
Depending on solar and wind without nuclear, carbon capture, or other “firm low-carbon resources” would be extremely expensive, MIT researchers find.