“The first thing we have to do is just not screw it up…”

Panel discussion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting Solar Panels in Lower Franconiaabout where research efforts (and funding;-) should be focused concerning energy production and use. Nanotechnology might play a key role – to which organics belong, even though they are not explicitly mentioned. The discussion is summarised at Ars Technica. One conclusion:

So from the generation side, there were several key messages about where we should be putting our money: go with solar, increase efficiencies using nanoparticles, find a way to use cheap and abundant raw materials, and think seriously about thermoelectric materials.

The German physical society published a study about climate, energy, and what related research is needed back in 2005, yet still contains uptodate concepts and ideas. But I still wonder: Do Europeans actually have an organisation similar to the AAAS mentioned above, or similar meetings?

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Industry Again…

Plextronics just opened its first manufacturing development line for organic ink (in contrast to the inorganic ink news from last week) to be used in polymer solar cells. Boston SkylineA stage prior to production, this is still good news for the organic photovoltaics community. The spin-off from Carnegie Mellon University, founded in 2002, describes its focus as being

on organic solar cell and organic light emitting diodes (OLED), specifically the conductive inks and process technologies that enable those and other similar applications.

I mentioned Plextronics already last year, as they presented the (up to now, I believe) highest certified power conversion efficiency for an organic solar cell.

Indeed, industry news again… for next time, I promise more fundamentals;-)

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Inkjet Printing of Inorganic Solar Cells

Last week, the german company Roth and Rau – supplier of plasma process systems for the photovoltaics industry – had Newbury Street, Bostona press release: they just finished the installation of a new production line for inkjet printing of silicon solar panels, together with Innovalight. See here (or in german here). Innovalight has developed the silicon ink technology in recent year, in collaboration with NREL and others. Low level of details, as typical for press realeases, but certainly interesting. And a competitor for printed organic solar cells even before they are in the production stage, even if on track.

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To be improved: Lifetime of Organic Solar Cells

I just came across this press release from the before-mentioned organic solar cell company Konarka. Boston Evening OneI mention it particularly, as our research group participates in this BMBF project to improve the stability of organic solar cells.

A somewhat older press release (see here and here) by the belgian research institute IMEC shows how they managed to improve the stability of the donor material, a conjugated polymer. The improvement is apparent from electrical characteristics and TEM images.

Not being quite as fancy as efficiency improvements, the lifespan of organic solar cells is probably more important for a ssuccessful commercialisation. As you know now that we are “officially” involved, stay tuned: this topics interests me from a fundamental research perspective.

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Mass Production of Plastic Solar Cells

LookTechnology Review has a piece on the first commercial fab for organic solar cells.

In a significant milestone in the deployment of flexible, printed photovoltaics, Konarka, a solar-cell startup based in Lowell, MA, has opened a commercial-scale factory, with the capacity to produce enough organic solar cells every year to generate one gigawatt of electricity, the equivalent of a large nuclear reactor.

Read it here, or the corresponding Konarka press release.

Thanks to Henning for the link.

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Brief Headline: Organic Bulk Heterojunction Solar Cell Efficiency

Continuing my recent history of only brief notes (sorry, busy…) here a short headline from the SPIE Optics and Photonics Conference in San Diego.

Today I heard a talk by Darin Laird, Plextronics. Green Lizards in the Loire valleyUsing an undisclosed organic donor material (well, they call their product Plexcore OS 2000 [Update below], as opposed to their P3HT OS 1000 or so) blended with the usual suspect PCBM, they managed to process an NREL certified lab scale (0.1cm2) solar cell with 5.94% power conversion efficiency! Fill factor was almost 72%, I believe, with the major improvement as compared to the reference material P3HT coming from an increased open-circuit voltage.

The corresponding solar cell module, 15×15 cm2 large, has an efficiency of 1.1% (or 2.3% active area efficiency, if you consider that only 46% of the module are active area). These numbers are brand new, but generally, uptodate solar cell efficiencies can be found in the efficiency tables (V32) by Martin Green.

So, who’s next to boost the organic solar cell efficiencies? ;-)  

P.S. As there sadly was a history of overestimated efficiencies published, followed by letters to the editors by watchful scientists and statements, a solar cell characterised by a certified institute is important to regain the trust.

P.P.S. Of course, not every university group can afford to spend 1000 bucks on a certified solar cell measurement. Still, at least some effort can be put into doing the current-voltage characterisations carefully. In January, Jan Kroon gave an interesting talk about measuring organic solar cells properly; find the video here.

Update (5.9.2008): The donor Plexcore OS 2100 available at Sigma Aldrich is not the one with which the 5.9% efficiency where achieved. The undisclosed donor material used is not yet available commercially, it seems.

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