Flexible solar panels or rather cells are an innovative solar technology that is largely at the research level currently. They are a lightweight solution to conventional solar panels which are bulky and may often be hard to install.
In conventional solar panels, the glass, frame etc. can be costlier than the PV materials used. Flexible solar cells are made by depositing PV material on flexible substrates like paper, which is a much cheaper option than glass. The technology for developing solar cells on paper was developed by a group of researchers from MIT.
Due to their flexible nature, they can fit on curved and other complex surfaces. Their reliability and compactness make them suitable for off-grid and portable applications such as mobile charging.
Some flexible solar panel technologies, due to their ruggedness and versatility, are especially suitable for marine applications on boats and yachts where typical solar panels can be unsafe.
Despite being an interesting technology with numerous applications, flexible solar panels are nowhere near efficient as conventional panels. Moreover, they have to overcome the challenge of getting damaged when exposed to outdoor conditions. If technological maturity is achieved, flexible solar panels can even be used indoor as wallpapers for producing electricity from room lighting.
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