Plastic Solar Cells’ New Design Promises Bright Future

Energy consumption is growing rapidly in the 21st century, with rising energy costs and sustainability issues greatly impacting the quality of human life. Harvesting energy directly from sunlight to generate electricity using photovoltaic technologies is considered to be one of the most promising opportunities to produce electricity in an environmentally benign fashion.

Among the various photovoltaic technologies, polymer (plastic) solar cells offer unique attractions and opportunities. These solar cells contain Earth-abundant and environmentally benign materials, can be made flexible and lightweight, and can be fabricated using roll-to-roll technologies similar to how newspapers are printed. But the challenge has been improving the cells’ power-conversion efficiency.

Now a research team of faculty members and students led by Professor Tobin J. Marks of Northwestern University reports the design and synthesis of new polymer semiconductors and reports the realization of polymer solar cells with fill factors of 80 percent — a first. This number is close to that of silicon solar cells.

Written by Science Daily. To read the full article, click here.

Stanford Researchers Develop Record-Breaking Thinner Solar Cells That Absorb More Light

Solar power research is a big deal. Scientists have been searching for a way to improve photovoltaic efficacy for years by developing new technologies – from giant solar concentrator arrays to satellites that beam power back to Earth. Now, Stanford University researchers have developed what they call the thinnest, most efficient photovoltaic wafers ever. Instead of increasing the size of the solar arrays, the researchers created solar wafers with a nano-sized structure that is 1,000 times thinner than any other commercially available thin-film solar cell absorbers.

According to the researchers, the thin film solar wafers are only 1.6 nanometers thin, which cuts down on materials required to produce the cells while making them lighter. At the same time, all of this was done without comprising the solar cells’ ability to absorb visible light. These smaller photovoltaic cells can actually absorb parts of the visible light spectrum with incredible efficiency.

“The coated wafers absorbed 99 percent of the reddish-orange light,” Carl Hagglund, postdoctoral scholar at Department of Chemical Engineering and lead author on the study, said in a statement. “We also achieved 93 percent [light] absorption in the gold nanodots themselves.”

Written by Kevin Lee. To read the full article, click here.