Review of Recent Patents on Flexible Photovoltaic Applications in Portable and Niche Markets
Ryan Smith, Cristina Crespo and Mateo Aboy
Affiliation: Electrical Engineering & Renewable Energy Department, Oregon Institute of Technology, Portland, OR, 97070, USA.
Keywords: Array, collapsible, flexible, inflatable, module, photovoltaic, portable, solar.
A state of the art search was conducted of novel applications for flexible photovoltaics (PV) in portable and
niche markets. Flexible PV modules are thinner and lighter weight than traditional rigid modules, allowing them to expand
into the mobile device market and areas where traditional rigid modules would be impractical. A variety of new applications
are currently being developed in this technical field, with 40% of developments occurring within the last 5 years
in USPTO subclass 136/245 (Batteries: photoelectric/collapsible or foldable), and 80% in subclass 320/101 (Battery
charging/from solar source). The growth is likely attributable to the falling cost of thin film modules, gains in efficiency,
and the proliferation of portable devices in recent years. The flexible PV applications discussed in this review are classified
in three broad categories: canopies and covers, field-deployable arrays, and portable device chargers. Significant progress
has been made in all areas, illustrating some of the key advantages of lightweight flexible PV over rigid crystalline
silicon modules for certain applications. Creative support schemes for holding flexible modules in a functional orientation
are highlighted and compared. Particular interest has been demonstrated in the category of portable device chargers, and
notable opportunities for future development are discussed.
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