Organic solar cell potential boosted by new research

Light and flexible organic solar cells mimic photosynthesis and have potential to revolutionize clean energy market

This is the laser set-up used to to measure organic solar cell efficiency. (Source: Dr. Akshay Rao)

Researchers from the Universities of Cambridge and Washington have found a way to increase the cell efficiency of organic solar cells.

Organic solar cells mimic the natural process of plant photosynthesis compared to traditional cells made of crystalline silicon which are synthetic.

The researchers discovered that manipulating the ‘spin’ of electrons in these solar cells dramatically improves their performance, providing a vital breakthrough in the pursuit of cheap, high performing solar power technologies.

Currently, organic solar cells have only achieved as much as 12% efficiency in turning light into electricity, compared with the record breaking cell efficiency of 18.3% as achieved by manufacturer JA Solar this week.

Printed from inks similar to newspapers these organic cells can be produced much faster and cheaper than current solar cells.

The Cambridge team believe that design concepts coming out of this work could help to close the gap between organic and silicon solar cells, bringing the large-scale deployment of solar cells closer to reality.

In addition, some of these design concepts could also be applied to Organic Light Emitting diodes, a new and rapidly growing display technology, allowing for more efficient displays in mobile phones and TVs.

“This discovery is very exciting, as we can now harness spin physics to improve solar cells, something we had previously not thought possible. We should see new materials and solar cells that make use of this very soon,” Dr. Akshay Rao from Cambridge University said.

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