Another Step Forward with Organic Solar Cells

photonics.com reports that a solar cell research group has discovered how to boost the power output of organic solar photovoltaics:

New materials have been integrated into an organic solar cell that double its open-circuit voltage and demonstrate the potential to make highly efficient photovoltaic cells much less expensively than with silicon, those involved in the project said.

The research, conducted by organic photovoltaic technology developer Global Photonic Energy Corp. of Ewing, N.J., and its research partners at the University of Southern California (USC), Princeton University and the University of Michigan, boosted the power output of photovoltaic cells, which in turn reduces their cost per kilowatt-hour. The researchers achieved an open-circuit voltage of 0.97 V, while surpassing the power output of a control organic solar cell by over 50 percent. A high-efficiency organic solar cell typically has a open-circuit voltage of 0.54 V. Silicon solar cells can have an open-circuit voltage as high as approximately 0.71 V.

“This latest research demonstrates that we can achieve high open-circuit voltages in small-molecular organic solar cells while also making gains in power output,” said Stephen R. Forrest, Michigan’s vice president for research and the William Gould Dow Collegiate Professor in Electrical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering and Physics.

While the article does not say what the new materials are (and I suppose that’s a smart move — trade secrets and all that), on the surface this holds great promise for bringing the cost of solar energy generation in line with more traditional forms of creating energy. Since carbon solar cells are so flexible (the thin-film kind), the article mentions potential developments like window tinting made from thin film solar cells that produce energy while still allowing a view of the outdoors. The article also doesn’t say how far this kind of technology is from commercial application (quite a ways, I’d guess), but silicon still in short supply, these folks might have quite an incentive to push forward — can you imagine how much this technology will be worth to the first companies to market it? Not to mention the effect relatively cheap solar power would have on our utility emissions…

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