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Gizmorama - New, flexible solar cells just 1 micrometer thick
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Gizmorama - June 27, 2016
Another huge development with solar cells flexibility has come to be thanks to scientists in South Korea. This could mean big things for alternative energy.
Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.
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*-- New, flexible solar cells just 1 micrometer thick --*
GWANGJU, South Korea - Researchers in South Korea have developed solar cells, or photovoltaics, so flexible and thin they they can be wrapped around a pencil. Scientists say they could power the next generation of wearable electronics.
Thinness is the key to the new solar cells' flexibility. The thinner a material, the more flexible it usually is.
"Our photovoltaic is about 1 micrometer thick," Jongho Lee, an engineer at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea, said in a news release.
Most photovoltaic cells are several hundred times thicker, and even the thinnest solar cells are two to four times thicker than those developed by Lee and his colleagues.
Engineers built the solar cell using a production technique called "cold welding." First cells were stamped onto a flexible substrate layered with an electrode. When scientists applied intense pressure at a relatively high temperature -- 170 degrees Celsius -- a top layer on the substrate called the photoresist melted and became a temporary adhesive, affixing the cells to the electrode substrate. The photoresist was later peeled away, leaving a metal-to-metal bond.
The substrate's bottom metal layer helps reflect solar rays back toward the photovoltaic cells.
"The thinner cells are less fragile under bending, but perform similarly or even slightly better," Lee said.
While scientists have made similarly thin solar cells, researchers say their new technique -- detailed in the journal Applied Physics Letters -- is simpler and uses fewer materials, making it better suited for scaled production.
*-- NASA's Juno spacecraft nears rendezvous with Jupiter --*
WASHINGTON - NASA's solar-powered Juno probe is less than three weeks and 8.6 million miles away from its Jupiter flyby, scheduled for July 4. Upon its initial approach, Juno will fly within 2,900 miles of the gas giant's upper atmosphere.
"At this time last year our New Horizons spacecraft was closing in for humanity's first close views of Pluto," Diane Brown, Juno program executive at NASA's headquarters, said in a news release. "Now, Juno is poised to go closer to Jupiter than any spacecraft ever before to unlock the mysteries of what lies within."
Once with in orbit around Jupiter, Juno will execute 37 approaches in order to study the planet's atmosphere and magnetosphere.
Scientists say Juno's trips into Jupiter's clouds will come with serious risk. Beneath the upper layers of Jupiter's atmosphere lies intensely pressurized hydrogen. The planet's fast spin rate imparts an electromagnetic field to the metallic gas, with electrons, protons and ions swirling about at the speed of light.
Juno's wiring and instruments are specifically designed to withstand intense radiation.
"Over the life of the mission, Juno will be exposed to the equivalent of over 100 million dental X-rays," said Rick Nybakken, Juno's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "But, we are ready."
"We designed an orbit around Jupiter that minimizes exposure to Jupiter's harsh radiation environment," Nybakken said. "This orbit allows us to survive long enough to obtain the tantalizing science data that we have traveled so far to get."
Juno has spent nearly five years on its flight to Jupiter; it will spend a year conducting its 37 orbital flybys.
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