Scientists just developed a novel material to upgrade organic solar cell printing

This is how you aim higher than the rooftops.
Derya Ozdemir

We have just gotten closer to the commercialization of organic solar cells.

A team of researchers directed by Hae Jung Son of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology's Advanced Photovoltaics Research Center has identified the factors causing performance decline in large-area organic solar cells, and developed a novel polymer additive material for the development of large-area, organic solar cell technology, according to a study published in Nano Energy.

This is significant for several reasons: The commercialization of organic solar cell research could pave the way for environmentally friendly self-sufficiency in energy generation. Remarkably, such cells can be simply put to the outside of buildings and automobiles, as well as used as an energy source for mobile and IoT devices.

Organic solar cell

In case you don't know, organic solar cells, which are part of the third generation of solar cells, are gaining popularity as a key technology for urban sun ray energy generation. This is because they can be printed and mounted to building external walls or glass windows.

It does have its drawbacks, however. Its photoactive area, which collects sunlight and converts it to energy, is much smaller than 0.1 cm², which means its commercialization is hampered by performance and repeatability issues that arise when the cell area is increased to several m² where viable energy supply levels are available.

To remedy this issue, the team concentrated on the compositional form of the photoactive layer in organic solar cells as well as the solution process. A method called spin coating produces a homogenous photoactive layer mixture by rapidly evaporating the solvent while the substrate rotates at a high speed; however, the large-area, continuous solution technique developed for industrial usage harmed solar cell performance.

This happened because the solvent evaporation rate of the solar cell material solution was too slow, and as a result, unwanted agglomeration between the photoactive components could occur. To prevent this behavior, the researchers created a polymer additive that interacts with aggregate-prone materials.

Power up!

For the study, ternary photoactive layers including polymer additives were created to prevent photoactive layer aggregation. Moreover, solar cell performance enhancements and stability security against light-induced temperature increases during solar cell operation were able to be achieved due to the possibility of nano-level structure modification.

Overall, the module efficiency was 14.7 percent, leading in a 23.5 percent performance gain over the standard binary system, according to the study. The ability to retain over 84 percent initial efficiency for 1,000 hours in an 85°C hot setting proved both efficiency and stability. 

According to Son, they "have gotten closer to organic solar cell commercialization by proposing the core principle of a solar cell material capable of high-quality, large-area solution processing." That's exciting news as organic photovoltaics have the potential to significantly reduce the entire cost of a solar energy system, making solar a genuinely ubiquitous clean energy source.

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