Improvements in solar cells are coming hot & heavy of late; interestingly, most seem to be improvements in usability, not efficiency. New Scientist reports on the latest story, a three-nation European Union research project called H-Alpha Solar. They've come up with a light, extremely flexible (can be rolled up), thin solar cell material able to be sewn into fabric. The unsurprising downside is the low efficiency -- currently 7%, probably getting up to 10% before going into production. That's better than the possible 5% of the organic solar cells we mentioned the other day, but still not up to the 25+% of traditional cells. For many of the likely applications -- recharging mobile phones, MP3 players and so forth -- that's not a deal-breaker, but we're still hoping to see the flexible solar material efficient enough to run something truly interesting. The big advantage of this technique is the projected cost -- a panel the size of a sheet of paper, easily able to charge phones (and whatnot), could cost as low as about $10.
While H-Alpha Solar doesn't seem to have a website (if any of you find one, I'll update this post), the EU research website has a PDF providing a few more details.