Imagine recharging an electronic gadget just by slipping it into a coat pocket made from fabric that captures sunlight. It's closer than you might think, thanks to thin-film solar technology.
Thin film solar is different from traditional, bulky silicon panels. It's flexible, paper-thin and much cheaper to make, even if it's not yet as efficient But its potential is wide-ranging, from that solar-coat pocket to skyscraper windows that can help power the lights inside
Start-ups around the country are looking to capitalize on this technology. Konarka is one such company. It makes thin-film solar in a former Polaroid printing plant The company says it hired Polaroid's leading engineering teams, and plans to hire over 100 additional employees as production increases.
Konarka has been working on thin film technology since 2001, but improving solar cells while lowering costs remains a bit of a challenge. Still, Lux Research projects that Konarka and other companies can capture nearly a third of the solar market by 2012.