Sandia’s microsystems enabled photovoltaics, also known as “solar glitter,” captured a prestigious R&D 100 Award in this year’s contest.

Microsystems enabled photovoltaics combine mature technology and tools currently used in microsystem production with groundbreaking advances in photovoltaic cell design. The cells are created using mature microdesign and microfabrication techniques, said Sandia researcher Vipin Gupta. The cells are then released into a solution similar to printing ink and ‘printed’ onto a low-cost substrate with embedded contacts and microlenses for focusing sunlight onto the cells. Each cell can be as small as 14 microns thick and 250 microns wide, reducing material costs while enhancing cell performance by improving carrier collection and potentially achieving higher open circuit voltages. The technology has potential applications in buildings, houses, clothing, portable electronics, vehicles, and other contoured structures.