An ultra-light, highly efficient solar cell and use of ink-jet printing to manufacture thin-film photovoltaics—both developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)—have been named among this year’s most significant innovations by Research & Development (R&D) Magazine.

The R&D 100 Award showcases the most significant new technologies commercialized worldwide. The NREL has won a total of 42 awards, which the magazine has been presenting annually since 1969.

The new Inverted Metamorphic Multi-Junction solar cell was developed at NREL. The cell already had set a pair of world records for solar-conversion efficiency when it was nominated for the R&D 100 award, and recently, it set a third world record with a solar-conversion rate that exceeded 40 percent.

The thin-film photovoltaic manufacturing process combines NREL’s precursor inks with a rapid, reactive bonding technique. The combination eliminates complex manufacturing methods and could make it possible to create enough of the flexible film to turn entire buildings and other nearby structures into small, self-sustaining power plants.

“These two technologies represent a new wave of breakthroughs in development of solar cells that will have a significant impact on the penetration of solar energy in the marketplace,” said Dan Arvizu, NREL director.