MIT engineers have created solar cells so light and so flexible that they can be laminated onto almost any material, like a disaster relief tent or the sail of a boat. They used printable electronic inks, a technique similar to how designs are screen printed onto a T-shirt, and a sturdy fabric called Dyneema so strong that it’s used to make bullet-proof vests and the ropes that pulled the 220,000-pound Ever Given ship from the Suez Canal. “We have a unique opportunity to rethink what solar technology looks like, how it feels, and how we deploy it,” says Vladimir Bulović, professor of electrical engineering. In the long-run, he says the team will be able to match the efficiency of silicone panels by switching to a perovskite solar cell. But for now, the point is to make solar energy more accessible and portable, so it can be used in scenarios where traditional panels can’t.

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