While it may look like some sort of metallic snowstorm, this is actually an assortment of tiny photovoltaic cells, each less than a millimeter across. And these minuscule cells could be the versatile, flexible future of solar power.
The cells themselves, created at Sandia National Laboratories, are built using microelectronic and microelectromechanical processes, the same ones used for many of the smallest (and coolest) new microscopic machines.
As with any new and exciting technology, applications seem limitless. The current generation of photovoltaic cells are wafers around 6 square inches. In contrast, these tiny cells could be mounted on flexible substrates, such as on fabric or oddly shaped surfaces.
As an added bonus, the mass-produced micro-cells will also eventually be cheaper to make and install than current solar power cells. This could finally pave the way for buildings that pay their own energy costs with solar power. Or it could mean charging your iPod on the go from a solar-power-collecting shirt.
Glitter-sized solar photovoltaics produce competitive results [PhysOrg]