Two University Teams Have Improved Organic Solar Cells, Substantially Improving the Efficiency Rate
NWN Speaks To Physicist at New Mexico State University To Learn More.With gas prices continuing to rise, organic solar cells offer an attractive energy option--they can produce electricity more cheaply that conventional silicon based solar cells. Two university research teams are improving the efficiency of organic solar cells. The team from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) has found a way to create organic solar cells with an efficiency rate of just over 4%, more than doubling the cells current efficiency rate of 1 to 2 percent. The UCLA research team reports that the 4.4% efficiency rate is the highest recorded number published for plastic solar cells.
However, researchers from New Mexico State University (NMSU) and Wake Forest University are claiming an efficiency rate for organic solar cells at 5.2 percent. The team from NMSU and Wake Forest are working towards creating cells with an efficiency rate exceeding 10% by 2010. The team is using plastics to develop more efficient solar cells. In an interview with NWN Dr. Seamus Curran, Physicist at New Mexico State University, said “Polymers offer us a great deal of tailorability and design in terms of chemistry, while their potential in terms of device application is significant.”
In discussing the near term applications of more efficient organic solar cells, Dr. Curran told the NWN, “As the efficiencies of the organic solar cells increase, we can expect that the current high costs of solar cells will come down substantially where there is a ready market for both home users, as well as industrial applications. Perhaps we can envision States such as New Mexico becoming energy suppliers for other States, providing a clean alternative to current energy generation. However, in order to get to that point there will be a significant need to carry out more detailed research into new materials, in particular composites using all forms of fullerenes and a select group of polymers for multilayer designs, using spectroscopic and morphological control that is provided by Raman and Near Field Scanning Optical Microscopes.” Dr. Curran noted, “The great engineering done by Professor Carroll’s group at Wake Forest, along with the morphology information on the meso phase present in our composites, will significantly push our power conversion efficiencies higher, while we have a strong active program in designing the new composites required for potential commercial use.”