You can see solar panels appearing on more and more rooftops. But Saudi scientists printed a solar cell on a bubble.

Thinner, thinner, thinner they must have thought in Derya Baran’s lab at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Whereas ‘normal’ solar panels are quite bulky and heavy, the researchers from Saudi Arabia are trying to print super-thin solar cells with an inkjet printer. They make such a solar cell by repeatedly printing and drying different layers of ink. Each layer then forms a different component of the solar cell, creating a layered but flexible device to convert energy. It is so thin and flexible that you can put it on a bubble without making it pop.

The photo is one of Nature’s best science images of 2020, and was featured in the Chemistry in Pictures category on the Chemical & Engineering News website.

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Beeld: Anastasia Serin/ KAUST