Researchers, for a long time, have been relying on silicon to create solar cells, digital cameras and other similar devices. However, there are still other materials and semiconductors that capture light more efficiently than silicon. Gallium arsenide is one such silicon alternative. Lately, a research team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is peeling and printing very fine layers of the semiconductor onto glass or plastic in a cost-effective way. More companies that provide build to print assembly offerings have recently popped up on the market and have the potential to greatly impact business. Many of these services can be used to further the solar capacity of both existing and new products.
During the process, researchers first grow a pancake of alternating layers of gallium arsenide and aluminum arsenide. Next, they use chemicals to slacken the individual gallium arsenide layers. After that, they peel the semiconductor layers off with a silicon-based rubber stamp. Finally, the wafers are stamped onto a glass or plastic surface, which are later etched into circuits. Using this technique, the team mass-produced very small (500 micrometers wide) solar cells, infrared-imaging devices and other components for mobile phones.
However, to create large sheets, scientists need to work more; and they are…