Organic cells bring flexible solar devices closer to reality

Scientists have developed an energy efficient organic small-molecule solar cell, taking a step ahead in the realization of super cells solar panels that can be printed like newspapers.

The solar cell, developed by a team from the University of California, Santa Barbara has energy efficiencies of 6.7 per cent, which rivals the best polymer-based solar cells.

Most polymer-based designs have reached the 6 to 8 ranges for efficiency.

“These results provide important progress for solution-processed organic photovoltaics and demonstrate that solar cells fabricated from small donor molecules can compete with their polymeric counterparts,” ABC Science quoted researchers as writing in Nature Materials.

The researchers include Nobel Prize winner Professor Alan Heeger.

Organic solar cell devices are under intense investigation in academic and industrial laboratories worldwide because of their potential to allow mass production of flexible and cost-effective solar devices.

Although they have similar properties to the silicon panels that lie on many Australian roofs, they can be manufactured more cheaply and their lightweight and flexible characteristics will also allow them to be used in a variety of applications and over uneven surfaces.

Materials scientist Dr Chris McNeill from Monash University stated the development marks an incremental improvement in the field, “but an important increment.”

He said the main benefit of organic solar cells is they can be manufactured cheaply in a reel-to-reel printing process similar to that used by newspapers.

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