(Source: Inhabitat)
Prototype able to generate a small LED display.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with a layer-by-layer manufacturing process that produces ultra-thin solar cells.

The cells are grown at low temperatures on ordinary tracing paper and could be placed on rooftops, developed as window blinds or spread over laptops.

The prototypes were used to power up a LED display at a news conference this week, a video demonstration can be viewed here.

According to Karen Gleason,  MIT chemical engineering professor and lead researcher on the project,  five layers of solid material deposited onto a paper substrate goes into the process of making a cell with each layer serving a separate function. 

One layer could contain the active material that releases an electron when it's struck by light and another layer could contain the circuit that carries the current. 

"We have an apparatus which allows us to bring together molecular and atomic species. They basically condense, sometimes they react. We repeat that five times and you up with a solar cell," she said.

While most solar cells have an efficiency rate of at least 15 percent, currently each paper thin solar cell only has an efficiency level of of just one percent.   Researchers plan to get the paper solar cells up to four percent.

Gleason adds that its possible that the special solar paper could be available to the public within the next five years.

"It'd be a matter of economics and investment on the time frame for large-scale commercialization," she said. "If everything went great, I think five years is not unreasonable."

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