Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Special coating greatly improves solar cell performance

26.02.2008
The energy from sunlight falling on only 9 percent of California’s Mojave Desert could power all of the United States’ electricity needs if the energy could be efficiently harvested, according to some estimates. Unfortunately, current-generation solar cell technologies are too expensive and inefficient for wide-scale commercial applications.

A team of Northwestern University researchers has developed a new anode coating strategy that significantly enhances the efficiency of solar energy power conversion. A paper about the work, which focuses on “engineering” organic material-electrode interfaces in bulk-heterojunction organic solar cells, is published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

This breakthrough in solar energy conversion promises to bring researchers and developers worldwide closer to the goal of producing cheaper, more manufacturable and more easily implemented solar cells. Such technology would greatly reduce our dependence on burning fossil fuels for electricity production as well as reduce the combustion product: carbon dioxide, a global warming greenhouse gas.

Tobin J. Marks, the Vladimir N. Ipatieff Research Professor in Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and professor of materials science and engineering, and Robert Chang, professor of materials science and engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, led the research team. Other Northwestern team members were researcher Bruce Buchholz and graduate students Michael D. Irwin and Alexander W. Hains.

Of the new solar energy conversion technologies on the horizon, solar cells fabricated from plastic-like organic materials are attractive because they could be printed cheaply and quickly by a process similar to printing a newspaper (roll-to-roll processing).

To date, the most successful type of plastic photovoltaic cell is called a “bulk-heterojunction cell.” This cell utilizes a layer consisting of a mixture of a semiconducting polymer (an electron donor) and a fullerene (an electron acceptor) sandwiched between two electrodes -- one a transparent electrically conducting electrode (the anode, which is usually a tin-doped indium oxide) and a metal (the cathode), such as aluminum.

When light enters through the transparent conducting electrode and strikes the light-absorbing polymer layer, electricity flows due to formation of pairs of electrons and holes that separate and move to the cathode and anode, respectively. These moving charges are the electrical current (photocurrent) generated by the cell and are collected by the two electrodes, assuming that each type of charge can readily traverse the interface between the polymer-fullerene active layer and the correct electrode to carry away the charge -- a significant challenge.

The Northwestern researchers employed a laser deposition technique that coats the anode with a very thin (5 to 10 nanometers thick) and smooth layer of nickel oxide. This material is an excellent conductor for extracting holes from the irradiated cell but, equally important, is an efficient “blocker” which prevents misdirected electrons from straying to the “wrong” electrode (the anode), which would compromise the cell energy conversion efficiency.

In contrast to earlier approaches for anode coating, the Northwestern nickel oxide coating is cheap, electrically homogeneous and non-corrosive. In the case of model bulk-heterojunction cells, the Northwestern team has increased the cell voltage by approximately 40 percent and the power conversion efficiency from approximately 3 to 4 percent to 5.2 to 5.6 percent.

The researchers currently are working on further tuning the anode coating technique for increased hole extraction and electron blocking efficiency and moving to production-scaling experiments on flexible substrates.

Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.northwestern.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Neuron and synapse-mimetic spintronics devices developed
17.04.2019 | Tohoku University

nachricht New discovery makes fast-charging, better performing lithium-ion batteries possible
16.04.2019 | Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

Im Focus: Researchers 3D print metamaterials with novel optical properties

Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna

A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>