A team of FAU researchers have achieved an important milestone in the quest to develop efficient solar technology as an alternative to fossil fuels. Together with colleagues from Imperial College London and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), they have investigated a new molecule that can be used to increase the lifetime of organic solar cells considerably – while also making them more efficient. In their new technology the researchers succeeded in combining the factors that the energy market considers the most important for producing sustainable energy: module efficiency, lifetime and cost per watt.
They recently published their findings in the journal Nature Communications (doi: 10.1038/NCOMMS11585).
Organic solar cells are considered a competitive alternative to the standard silicon cells that are used in photovoltaics. They are incredibly thin, flexible and translucent, and can be integrated into window glass or used by architects as design elements in large lighting installations.
In contrast to the silicon cells that are often installed in photovoltaic systems on the roofs of buildings, organic solar cells are made of special semiconductor-based polymers called fullerenes – minute carbon molecules that look like footballs. Using fullerenes makes the cells highly efficient but also less durable, meaning that they are unable to match the standard technology over longer periods than 30 years, for example.
‘The environmental stability of these kinds of solar cells is not yet sufficient,’ says Prof. Dr. Christoph Brabec, Chair of Materials for Electronics and Energy Technology and renowned photovoltaics researcher and materials scientist.
However, that is about to change. FAU researchers led by Professor Brabec and materials scientist Nicola Gasparini, a doctoral candidate at FAU, have now managed to find an alternative to fullerenes. ‘We have identified a new organic molecule that is not based on fullerenes. Compared with other acceptors – which are an essential element in photovoltaics – it is in a class of its own in terms of functionality,’ Christoph Brabec explains. While fullerenes only absorb a very small amount of light, the new molecule is able to convert a very large amount.
The more sunlight absorbed, the higher the efficiency. ‘This is a major breakthrough for the international research community which has been looking for new cell technologies that can replace fullerene, reducing the cost of producing solar energy.’ According to Professor Brabec, this is what will make producing energy using photovoltaics a competitive alternative to fossil fuels. When determining the cost of producing energy, all of the costs that are required to convert the energy from the source (in this case the sun) into electricity are taken into account.
In their study the researchers demonstrated the record stability and efficiency of their newly developed polymer. ‘We measured a significantly higher air-stability, even at temperatures of up to 140 degrees,’ Professor Brabec explains. ‘And we expect to be able to produce stable solar cells with an efficiency of over ten percent using these materials.’
Another significant benefit is that the process used to print the new organic materials is less expensive. Instead of using expensive semiconductor technologies, the photovoltaic elements consisting of thin polymer substrates are produced on a production line where they are printed and coated. In addition, the solar films can be made in different colours. This will allow architects greater freedom when choosing colour combinations for their design and enable car manufacturers to install the special organic solar cells in glass roofs in their vehicles, for example. The new technology also opens up a whole new range of possibilities for the chemical industry to improve existing applications and develop new ones.
In light of all this, it is clear that the FAU researchers have succeeded in taking a major step forward in solar energy research. ‘The new findings highlight the excellent work and high standards of FAU researchers who work together in interdisciplinary teams,’ Christoph Brabec says. ‘This considerable milestone in the development of next-generation photovoltaic technologies is a testament to their superb research skills.’ The new solar modules were developed in close collaboration with Dr. Derya Baran from Imperial College London, who spent time researching at FAU after she completed her doctoral degree. The researchers also collaborated with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia, and Stanford University, USA.
Prof. Dr. Christoph J. Brabec
Phone: +49 9131 8525426
Dr. Susanne Langer | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Laser sensor LAH-G1 - optical distance sensors with measurement value display
15.08.2017 | WayCon Positionsmesstechnik GmbH
Engineers find better way to detect nanoparticles
14.08.2017 | Washington University in St. Louis
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences