thomst writes: LiveScience's Charles Q. Choi has a story about a new flexible solar cell material developed by a CalTech team led by Harry Atwater that consists of silicon microrods, surrounded by alumina and vertically embedded in silicone rubber. The study, advanced-published online in Nature Materials Letters (summary here, full text requires registrations and/or $18 pay-as-you-go — what are they smoking at Nature?) on Valentine's day, claims absorption and conversion efficiencies comparable with current, silicon-wafer-based rigid solar cells, using only 1% of the silicon of the wafer-based products. The LiveScience article claims the material offers further cost reductions, because the method of producing the silicon micro-rods "bypasses two or three expensive and energy-consuming steps" in comparison to silicon wafers. Predictably enough, Atwater is quoted as saying, "We're actively pursuing commercialization opportunities at the moment."
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