By far one of the most wasted spaces of every residence is the roof – of course it is there to protect us from the elements, but surely it can be put to better use. Aiming to innovate upon conventional roof cladding, researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory recently unveiled a new breed of flexible and moisture resistant solar panels that are designed to be rolled out en masse as energy-generating roof tiles!

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Solar Panels are a great source of green energy, but unfortunately they’re not the prettiest of things – massive solar arrays tend to stick out like sore thumbs. Traditional photovoltaic panels, such as those incorporated into building facades, also tend to be costly, and producing them in a cheap and usable quantity has been a common problem.

Researchers at PNNL developed a film encapsulation process that was initially used for protecting flat panel displays over 15 years ago. However with the recent emphasis on energy generating technologies, they decided to take a second look at the materials and encapsulation process. It turns out that this encapsulation process can be used to protect components that are intended to be exposed to ultraviolet lights and natural elements, making it perfect for waterproofing thin-film solar panels.

PNNL hopes to produce a solar panel that can be installed on a residence and generate power for a few cents on the dollar. Research is currently being undertaken in conjunction with Vitex and Batelle, and hopefully we’ll see a marketable product soon.

+ Pacific Northwest National Laboratory