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This could be the coolest thing since . . . whatever, or it could be a bust. I honestly don’t know and it’s too early to tell. But if it works it will transform the way we power just about everything—from our buildings to our cellphones.
I’m talking about Power Plastic, an extremely lightweight and flexible film that converts light to energy, and can be integrated into any device, system, or structure that is exposed to light. Developed by Konarka, a solar power startup located in Lowell, MA, Power Plastic has received a lot of attention from investors and the press.
Featured in Fortune Magazine the company’s president, Rick Hess, predicts that "in a few years, Konarka will have perfected a translucent version of its product that could be built into the windows of skyscrapers, generating enough power to run whole buildings. It is also working on projects for the Department of Defense to make solar-power tents that recharge soldiers’ equipment in remote locations. Eventually the technology could even be woven into clothing—imagine slipping your cellphone into your pocket to recharge it."
Konarka admits to some product development hurdles, such as a need to increase efficiency and durability, but Power Plastic does utilize a wider range of the light spectrum than conventional solar cells and allows all visible light sources to be used to generate power.
Thin film technology on a flexible substrate holds great promise beyond its current applications on backpacks and sun umbrellas. Picture Power Plastic imbedded into a window covering and imagine the possibilities. It will be fun to watch it evolve.