Japan gets inexpensive, yet innovative solar cells

Japanese companies Gunze and Dai Nippon Printing are each developing new technologies that make it possible to produce low-cost, pigment-sensitized solar cells.

Gunze focuses on low-end solar cells that can be used to power smaller electronic appliances or in-store ad displays, for example. Their cells will use a film, which is coated with special pigments, as a power source. Gunze, actually a major underwear maker, says their film is bendable and can therefore be used fexibly. The company is thinking about offering  baseball caps with built-in solar cells to power portable audio players, for example.

Dai Nippon, one of Japan’s largest printing companies, will also soon start producing inexpensive solar cells, which are covered by a plastic sheet coated by a pigment membrane. The solar cells have an energy conversion rate of just 3.5% but can be manufactured at low cost because the company can use its own printing machines.

Dai Nippon plans to sell their solar cells to computer hardware manufacturers: The company says their technology can serve as an auxiliary power source when integrated into the covers of notebooks, for example.

Both Gunze and Dai Nippon Printing plan to commercialize their solar cells by 2010.

Via Nikkei [registration required, paid subscription]