RESEARCH NEWS UPDATES (Novel Organic Solar Cells)

Novel Organic Solar Cells

Dec. 13, 2013 — Future solar cells will be light and mechanically flexible. They will be produced at low costs with the help of printing processes. POPUP, the new BMBF-funded research project, aims at developing more efficient materials and new architectures for organic photovoltaic devices. An interdisciplinary team headed by Dr. Alexander Colsmann of the KIT Light Technology Institute (LTI) works on improving the basic understanding and developing new architectures for semitransparent and non-transparent solar cells and modules.

Ten leading universities, research institutions, and companies in various areas are involved in the project "Development of New Materials and Device Structures for Competitive Mass Production Methods and Applications of Organic Photovoltaics" (POPUP). The project is coordinated by the pharmaceutical and chemical company of Merck. The total budget of the three year project is EUR 16 million. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funds EUR 8.2 million, the remainder is borne by the companies involved in the project. For its contribution to the research project, KIT is granted funding in the amount of EUR 1 million.
POPUP is to leverage organic photovoltaics. For this purpose, the consortium intends to develop more efficient and more stable materials for low-cost, industrially applicable printing and coating methods as well as new architectures for flexible and rigid, semitransparent and non-transparent solar modules. The tasks of KIT in this project comprise developing in-depth understanding and studying new component architectures for semi-transparent and non-transparent solar cells and modules in close collaboration with the industry partners.
Depending on the application, solar cells are manufactured on flexible plastic foils or rigid glass carriers. In the area of organic photovoltaics, KIT scientists work on two objectives, namely, full printability of solar cells and replacing indium tin oxide (ITO) as the electrode material. Instead, the scientists use conductive and transparent foils for flexible carriers. For glass carriers, they study the deposition of transparent electrodes from metallic microstructures and conductive buffer layers. In addition, the KIT team studies highly efficient semi-transparent solar cells in mini-modules made of organic semiconductors. Hence, KIT research concentrates on one of the key technologies of organic photovoltaics.
In the medium and long term, the industry partners plan to manufacture organic solar modules by competitive mass production methods. Later on, the solar modules are planned to be integrated into vehicles for electricity supply to onboard electronics, in buildings and glass facades, for energy supply of free-standing buildings and devices, emergency systems, transport and navigation aids. The novel technologies will also be used for off-grid electricity supply in the leisure activity sector or for charging mobile consumer devices. The results obtained by the KIT researchers will have direct impact on various applications.
The POPUP consortium comprises ten partners who have many years of experience in the organic photovoltaics field and are technology leaders in their respective areas of work: Merck, Darmstadt; Center for Applied Energy Systems, Erlangen; PolyIC GmbH & Co. KG, Fürth; Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe; Leonhard Kurz Stiftung & Co. KG, Fürth; Belectric OPV GmbH, Nuremberg; Webasto Group, Stockdorf; Siemens AG, Erlangen; Centrosolar Glas GmbH & Co. KG, Fürth; Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research, Stuttgart. The companies, universities and institutes are cooperating along a cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary value chain characterized by the division of labor.
The research topics of the BMBF POPUP project are thematically linked to the BMBF funding program known as "Basic Research Energy 2020+." POPUP specifically supports the implementation of the high-tech strategy of the German federal government.



Materials for Next Generation Transparent Conductors 


Nov. 19, 2012 — A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and Cima NanoTech, a US multinational company, have signed an agreement to jointly work on new sustainable nanomaterials, processes and devices for transparent conductors used to make cheaper and more efficient electronics and organic solar cells.

IMRE and Cima NanoTech are collaborating to develop new transparent conductive materials and components, based on Cima's SANTE™ Technology[1] and IMRE's know-how in printed electronics[2]. These innovations will enable efficient conductive interfaces with high transparency, which can be developed into low cost and high performance products for displays, organic solar cells, and flexible electronics.
Conventional Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) and Transparent Conductive Oxides (TCO) used in today's solar cells, OLEDs, flat panel TVs, and touchscreen displays have limitations in conductivity, flexibility, and cost. These new materials and processes that IMRE and Cima are developing will potentially enable faster response touch screens for large flexible displays and reduce production cost.
"Cima is particularly interested in IMRE's extensive electronics materials systems and device fabrication capabilities," said Mr Jon Brodd, Cima NanoTech's Chief Executive Officer (Singapore). IMRE and CIMA are working together to develop enabling nanotechnology materials, components, and processing methods to support new market applications in transparent conductors and printed electronics with SANTE(™), Cima NanoTech's self aligning nanoparticle network.
"We are collaborating with Cima to develop new transparent conductor applications that will lead to cheaper, flexible, more eco-friendly and sustainable products," said Dr Zhang Jie, the key scientist leading IMRE's printed electronics initiative. The research team will develop applications using novel, sustainable transparent conductor materials as an alternative to conventional ITO-based materials.
"Innovations in materials R&D are crucial in evolving today's devices into new products with tomorrow's technology. IMRE's research portfolio covers the entire printed electronics value chain that includes materials, processes, optimisation and reliability testing for integrated printed electronics prototypes. I am glad that we can present a diverse suite of capabilities in partnering Cima in the area of transparent conductors and printed electronics," said Prof Andy Hor, IMRE's Executive Director.

New Record Voltage for Organic Solar Cells Opens the Tech to Consumer Electronics


Oct. 17, 2011 — Molecular Solar Ltd, a spinout company from the University of Warwick, has achieved a significant breakthrough in the performance of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells. They have achieved and demonstrated a record voltage for organic photovoltaic cells that means these highly flexible, low cost solar cells can now be devolved for commercial uses in a wide range of consumer electronics.

The Company's most recent advance in the development of its organic photovoltaic (OPV) cell technology is the realisation of cells with open-circuit voltages in excess of 4 volts for the first time. Molecular Solar's research team believe this is a record for an OPV device. Dr Ross Hatton, Research Director of the company commented:
"This is an important advance. We are now very close to having highly flexible organic photovoltaic cells that will be capable of delivering electrical energy at a voltage suitable for recharging lithium ion batteries that are widely used in portable consumer electronics. Remarkably, this high voltage is achieved using a cell with only 4 junctions (sub-cells)''.
University of Warwick researcher Professor Tim Jones, who is Chief Technology Officer of Molecular Solar, added: "The first generation of organic photovoltaics will be exceptionally well matched to consumer electronics applications. The advantage of Molecular Solar's high voltage cells is that a single cell can be used with no requirement to connect multiple cells in series for these applications, saving manufacturing cost.''
Andrew Oldfield, Head of Cleantech at Mercia Fund Management said, "We were attracted to Molecular Solar's unique approach to realizing truly flexible, environmentally sustainable photovoltaics that are well matched to the burgeoning portable consumer electronics market."
Molecular Solar are currently finalising a £5m investment round to complete the up-scaling of their OPV and MS-Flexifilm™ electrode technology.

Innovative Organic Solar Cell Architecture Sets New Performance Level, Belgian Researchers Demonstrate


Sep. 6, 2011 — The Belgian research centre imec, together with Plextronics and Solvay, present this week at the European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition (PVSEC) in Hamburg an organic polymer-based single junction solar cell with 6.9% performance in an innovative inverted device stack. Combining imec's scalable inverted device architecture and Plextronics' polymers, new levels of cell efficiency were achieved. The polymer was also integrated into a module resulting in excellent module level efficiencies of 5% for an aperture area of 25cm².

Organic solar cell modules, composed of 10 devices in monolithic series connection. The solar cells are spincoated and processed on a glass substrate. Possible applications are PV-integrated window panes. (Credit: Image courtesy of IMEC)


Organic solar cells are regarded as an emerging technology to become one of the low-cost thin-film alternatives to the current dominating silicon photovoltaic technology, due to their intrinsic potential for low-cost processing (high-speed and at low temperature). Inverted architectures are developed to extend the lifetime of organic solar cells, an investigation which is currently ongoing for this new architecture. By combining architecture improvements with optimizations to the active layer using different types of polymers, imec aims at making the organic photovoltaic technology ready for market introduction.
The dedicated inverted bulk heterojunction architecture developed by imec improved the device performance by at least 0.5% over standard architectures used for organic solar cells. In the active layer, a new buffer layer was introduced to optimize the light management in the device. Imec's innovative device architecture, combined with Plextronics' low band-gap p-type polymer with a fullerene derivate, resulted in a stabilized certified conversion efficiency of 6.9%, which is the highest performance obtained for this polymer material and, to our knowledge, the highest efficiency reported for inverted architectures. In this new inverted device architecture, similar performance boosts have also been achieved for other polymer materials. The module level efficiencies confirm the suitability towards upscaling.
Tom Aernouts, R&D Team Leader Organic Photovoltaics at imec: "We are delighted to present these excellent results, achieved by combining imec's expertise and knowhow in organic photovoltaics R&D with Plextronics' innovative material. With further optimizations to the material as well as to the architecture, for example by introducing a multi-junction featuring different layers of different polymers each capturing another part of the light spectrum, we envision organic solar cell lifetimes of over 10 years and conversion efficiencies of 10% in two to three years, ultimately aiming at industry-relevant solutions."
Andy Hannah, president and CEO of Plextronics adds, "Partnering with industry leaders like imec and Solvay allows us the opportunity to explore new approaches to accelerate the performance of OPV technology incorporating our proprietary polymers.
Patrick Francoisse, Sustainable Energy Platform Manager, Innovation Center, Solvay: "We are delighted to work with imec and develop new OPV architectures which will demonstrate the performance of materials being developed at Plextronics. We believe organic photovoltaics will play a bigger role in the future, when we can boost efficiency and lifetime, at a reduced cost price. Our collaboration with imec contributes to build this confidence and offer new products to this emerging market."


New Generation Of Solar Cells Promises Efficiency

July 24, 2009 — The laboratory for photovoltaics of the University of Luxembourg has produced its first thin film solar cells made from compound semiconductors, already reaching a 12 percent efficiency. Thin film solar cells are considered the next generation of solar cells and are expected to be considerably cheaper because they need much less material and energy in their production than today's photovoltaic modules.


Researchers around the globe are racing to develop efficient thin film solar cells. The solar cells made in Luxembourg are based on a semiconductor made of copper, indium, gallium and selenium (CIGS) and made by a process with the potential for highest performance. Furthermore, the scientists of the University of Luxembourg produced another solar cell based on a new cheaper material, which does not contain the costly indium, and made by a low cost galvanic process. This solar cell has reached an efficiency of 3.2 percent. This is already close to the world record: the worldwide best cell based on this new material and prepared by a similar low cost process shows an efficiency of 3.4 percent.
The laboratory for photovoltaics of the University of Luxembourg is a group of researchers developing new materials and processes for solar cells. Of all the available thin film technologies, solar cells based on CIGS have shown the highest efficiencies in research and in production. Prof Susanne Siebentritt, head of the laboratory, explains: "Currently we can produce the heart of the solar cells, the so called absorber layer and the buffer. But for completing the solar cells we rely on the help of our colleagues from Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin". The luxembourgish laboratory focuses not only on the development of solar cells but also on furthering the physical understanding of the materials and interfaces involved in these solar cells.


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