Power Plastic

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By Amara Holstein and Christopher Bright / Published by Dwell
Every hour, enough sunlight hits the earth to power the entire planet for a year. But since they’re pricey—and, let’s face it, generally unattractive—solar cells are still woefully underutilized and most sunlight lays fallow.

Not content to let tanning bodies take the heat, Konarka uses photovoltaic nanotechnology to transform light into energy more efficiently. The actual material is a sandwich of multiple layers of electrodes and polymer made by a Nobel laureate, too complex for most of us to comprehend. But the result is an easy-to-understand flexible plastic strip that’s paper thin, comes in a wide range of colors, and can generate power using any kind of light, be it direct solar, filtered sunlight, or indoor fluorescent.

Unlike its traditional photovoltaic coun-terparts, the material can be incorporated invisibly into an almost limitless variety of products. From cell phones to window panes, these flexible strips have the potential to power the world. Better yet, the possible cost savings for Power Plastic’s energy could be 5 to 10 times cheaper than current solar panels. The only downside is that the innovative cells aren’t yet available to consumers.

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