Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Future solar panels


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.

Module -to which two cells have been connected in series- powering a toy

(Source: IK4-Ikerlan).

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.

Additional information
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!
Further information:

Further reports about: Organic electrodes layers manufacture materials solar panels structures technique wavelengths

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Semiconductor nanoparticles show high luminescence in a polymer matrix
02.10.2015 | Toyohashi University of Technology

nachricht A necklace of fractional vortices
02.10.2015 | Chalmers University of Technology

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New Sinumerik features improve productivity and precision

EMO 2015, Hall 3, Booth E06/F03

  • Drive optimization called automatically by the part program boosts productivity
  • Automatically switching the dynamic values to rapid traverse and interpolation...

Im Focus: LZH presents additive manufacturing at the LABVOLUTION

The Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will present how laser-based technologies can contribute to the laboratory of the future at the LABVOLUTION in Hannover in Hall 9, Stand E67/09, from October 6th to 8th, 2015. As a part of the model lab smartLAB, the LZH is showing how additive manufacturing, better known as 3-D printing, can make experimental setups more flexible.

Twelve partners from science and industry are presenting an intelligent and innovative model lab at the special display smartLAB. A part of this intelligent...

Im Focus: New polymer creates safer fuels

Before embarking on a transcontinental journey, jet airplanes fill up with tens of thousands of gallons of fuel. In the event of a crash, such large quantities of fuel increase the severity of an explosion upon impact.

Researchers at Caltech and JPL have discovered a polymeric fuel additive that can reduce the intensity of postimpact explosions that occur during accidents and...

Im Focus: 3-D printing techniques help surgeons carve new ears

When surgical residents need to practice a complicated procedure to fashion a new ear for children without one, they typically get a bar of soap, carrot or an apple.

To treat children with a missing or under-developed ear, experienced surgeons harvest pieces of rib cartilage from the child and carve them into the framework...

Im Focus: Walk the line

NASA studies physical performance after spaceflight

Walking an obstacle course on Earth is relatively easy. Walking an obstacle course on Earth after being in space for six months is not quite as simple. The...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

EHFG 2015: Securing healthcare and sustainably strengthening healthcare systems

01.10.2015 | Event News

Conference in Brussels: Tracking and Tracing the Smallest Marine Life Forms

30.09.2015 | Event News

World Alzheimer`s Day – Professor Willnow: Clearer Insights into the Development of the Disease

17.09.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Infrared thermography can detect joint inflammation and help improving work ergonomics

02.10.2015 | Medical Engineering

Semiconductor nanoparticles show high luminescence in a polymer matrix

02.10.2015 | Materials Sciences

New Sinumerik features improve productivity and precision

02.10.2015 | Trade Fair News

More VideoLinks >>>