Researchers at MIT have figured out how to create solar cells thin enough to be pasted onto sheets of paper, with an applicator that works sort of like an inkjet printer. (Note: We are apparently stuck with inkjet printers, forever.)
In their current state, the cells are just under 2% efficient at converting sunlight into usable electricity, as compared to typical rooftop solar cells—you know, panel panels—which can exceed 20%. But you can't staple a solar panel to your roof! No, seriously, that's what the researchers are suggesting is possible here:
If you could use a staple gun to install a solar panel, there could be a lot of value.
True! Instead of hiring a team of laborers to install your home's new solar power system, you could send your kid up to the roof with a helmet and staple gun. Kids love staple guns.
As is always the case with stories like this, there's a sobering caveat. Vladimir Bulovic, director of the project, told CNET:
I'm giving you a whole bunch of hype. It usually takes 10 years from the time between when you invent something and you commercialize it.
This does raise some interesting possibilities, though. The above demo is pasted to paper, but if solar cells are this thin, and can eventually be manufactured at a low price, why not just stick them on everything? A car covered in photovoltaic film converting sunlight at 10% efficiency might not run entirely off of solar energy, but it could stay on the road a little longer. [CNET via Inhabitat—Photo credit: Martin LaMonica/CNET]