Plastic Solar Cells For Electronic Devices

Currently silicon-based solar cells are flooding the market. Industry pundits can foresee a hopeful future for low-cost, flexible solar cells. If we can make solar devices other than silicon based materials then they can be used for all sorts of applications beyond just the traditional solar panels on house rooftops. It will be great if we can have solar cells for portable electronic devices too.

Luping Yu, Professor in Chemistry, and Yongye Liang, a Ph.D. student, both at the University of Chicago, and five co-authors are working to develop a new semiconducting material called PTB1, which converts sunlight into electricity. The University accredited the patent rights to the technology to Solarmer last September. The license covers numerous polymers under development in Yu’s laboratory, confirmed by Matthew Martin. He is a project manager at University of ChicagoTech, the University’s Office of Technology and Intellectual Property. A patent is pending.

Solarmer Energy Inc. is spreading its wings in this direction. They are willing to incorporate technology invented at the University of Chicago. The commercial-grade prototype will be completed at the end of this year. It will be eight square inches with a lifetime of three years. This plastic solar device will have the efficiency of eight percent. This eight percent efficiency will give an edge to the Solarmer Energy Inc. over its competitors. Dina Lozofsky, vice president of IP development and strategic alliances at Solarmer states, “Everyone in the industry is in the 5 percent to 6 percent range.”

The active layer of PTB1 is around 100 nanometers in thickness, and the width is nearly 1,000 atoms. If we want to produce a small amount of the PTB1 material it will take considerable amount of time, and the whole procedure will be multi-step process. But, still the biggest advantage of this technology lies in its simplicity. Several products are being synthesized in other laboratories in the U.S., but the competitive advantage lies in the steps of production too. Other devices need far more extensive engineering work for commercial viability. “We think that our system has potential,” Yu said. “The best system so far reported is 6.5%, but that’s not a single device. That’s two devices.”

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 1st July 2009


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