IK4-Ikerlan and the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country are exploring the limits of organic solar cells and how to manufacture more efficient cells
Conventional photovoltaic technology uses large, heavy, opaque, dark silicon panels, but this could soon change. The IK4-Ikerlan research centre is working within the X10D European project with new materials to produce solar panels in order to come up with alternatives to the current panels. What is needed to improve the functioning of cells with a large surface are materials that cost less to produce and offer greater energy efficiency.
The solar panels we see tend to be rigid and black. Organic photovoltaic technology, by contrast, enables more translucent and more flexible solar panels in a range of colours to be manufactured. But this technology needs to meet certain requirements if it is to be accepted on the market: greater efficiency, longer duration and low production cost. So this research has set out "to analyse the capacity new materials have to absorb solar energy as well as to seek appropriate strategies to move from the lab to actual operations," pointed out Ikerne Etxebarria, a researcher of the UPV/EHU and IK4-Ikerlan.
The research team has analysed what the maximum size is for the cells, which must have a large surface area, if they are to work properly. Various cells with different structures and surfaces have been designed for this purpose. Once the results had been analysed, "we found that in cells of up to approximately 6 cm2 the power was in direct proportion to their surface area. On larger surface areas, however, the performance of the cells falls considerably," stressed Etxebarria, who has reached the following conclusion: to be able to manufacture cells with a large surface area it is necessary to build modules, to which cells with a smaller surface will be connected in series or in parallel, on the substrate itself.
To manufacture these modules, the layers existing between the electrodes need to be structured, in other words, the cells have to be connected to each other. "Until now, that structuring has been done mechanically or by means of laser but with the risk of damaging the substrate. However, in this research we have developed a new automatic structuring technique," she pointed out. This technique involves transforming the features of the surface of the substrate.
Aim: to improve efficiency
Another of the aims of this research was to find a way of manufacturing highly efficient cells. To do this, the first step was to optimize the production process of cells based on different polymers, in order to achieve the maximum efficiency of these materials; secondly, polymers that absorb light at different wavelengths have been used to produce cells with a tandem structure in order to make them more efficient. "Each polymer absorbs light at a different wavelength. The ideal thing would be to take advantage of all the sun's rays, but there is no polymer capable of absorbing the light at all the wavelengths. So to be able to make the most efficient use of the sunlight, one of the possibilities is to build tandem-type structures, in other words, to fit the cells manufactured with different polymers one on top of the other," explained Etxebarria. These tandem-type structures can be connected in series or in parallel. "We have seen that after many measurements greater efficiency is achieved in the cells installed in series than in the ones fitted in parallel," added the researcher.
The production of cells manufactured using polymers or new materials will be much more cost-effective, since these polymers are produced in the laboratory, unlike silicon that has to be mined. Etxebarria works in the laboratory of IK4-Ikerlan trying out different polymers in the quest for suitable materials for manufacturing cells. "We try out (different) materials in small devices," she pointed out. Many materials of many types are in fact tried out and the most efficient ones are selected, in other words, those that capture the most solar energy and which make the most of it.
Ikerne Etxebarria-Zubizarreta is a Doctor of Chemical Engineering. She works at the IK4-Ikerlan research centre. She submitted her PhD thesis entitled "Mini-Modules and Tandem Organic Solar Cells: Strategies to improve device efficiency" at the UPV/EHU and written up under the supervision of Iñigo López-Arbeloa, lecturer in the UPV/EHU's Department of Physical Chemistry, and Roberto Pacios-Castro, an IK4-Ikerlan researcher.
Matxalen Sotillo | Eurek Alert!
Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously
17.01.2017 | Sonderforschungsbereich 668
Manchester scientists tie the tightest knot ever achieved
13.01.2017 | University of Manchester
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction