Putting solar cells on plastic creates some interesting possibilities, according to University of California chemists A. Paul Alivisatos, Wendy Huynh, and Janke Dittmer. "This opens up all sorts of new applications, like putting solar cells on clothing to power LEDs, radios, or small computer processors," says Dittmer. The team created a hybrid solar cell made from tiny rods dispersed in an organic polymer layer. The nanorods act like wires. When they absorb light, they generate electrons, which travel the length of the rod until collected by an aluminum electrode. The polymer layer is 200 nanometers thick—less than the width of a human hair—and is sandwiched in between the electrodes. The hybrid solar cell generates 0.7V. Unlike semiconductor-based photovoltaic devices, the plastic solar cells can be made without clean rooms and vacuum chambers. Visit www.berkeley.edu.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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