A paper-thin solar panel that could be used to create self-charging mobile phones is in development at the University of Wollongong.
PhD candidate Joseph Giorgio wants to see the featherweight panels built into mobile phone cases in future, so they would never run out of juice.
A model in development at UOW's Intelligent Polymer Research Institute is made of titanium foil and plastic, electrodes, and a coloured dye that works like chlorophyll in a plant.
"That's what's absorbing the sun," Mr Giorgio said.
"I'd love to be around when you can go to the hardware store, pay $100 and get a panel like this.
"Because it's so thin, light and flexible, it could be integrated anywhere. It could be a stand-alone panel or could be built in to mobile phone cases."
As stand-alone panels they could be rolled out like a swag when camping and used to power electronic devices, he said.
The base technology behind the model is 20 years old, but was never commercialised because it was too expensive.
Work at the institute had brought affordable, sufficiently powerful paper-thin panels within reach, Mr Giorgio said.
"[Existing] silicon cells need a certain light intensity to [function]. We don't have that barrier here. It's one of the cool features of this technology."
Mr Giorgio anticipates stand-alone panels will be on the market within five years, and mobile phone-sized versions soon after.