Exploring new materials has a very large potential impact on the way we design and build housing. In this case, new innovation in solar panel development makes them so flexible that it costs less to install them and they can be used in new and different ways.

Conventional solar panels "are brittle because they're crystalline," Murat Okandan, CEO of mPower Technology, the startup making the new technology, tells Co.Exist. "If you bend or flex them, at some point they'll just break and shatter. By making our cells small and then interconnecting them we're able to make them almost unbreakable."

A satellite could carry a tightly-folded solar array into space, and then deploy it when it reaches orbit; a drone could carry a folded array on its wing. Someone on a camping trip could easily fit a large folded array in a backpack.

"You can charge your devices when you're out backpacking, fold it back up, put it in your backpack, and just go," Okandan says.

The technology also has some advantages for solar power on rooftops. The lightweight cells are easier to move around and faster to install, helping reduce the cost of installation. Because the cells are arranged in a dense mesh network, they're more resilient; if one cell loses power or is temporarily shaded, it doesn't affect the whole system. Since the cells are more durable than traditional panels, they'll last longer, making the cost of power cheaper. The design also requires less material for the same amount of power.

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