Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Wall-to-wall power

06.11.2001


On a roll: solar panels could soon be as cheap and easy to print as wallpaper.
© Photodisc / NSU


Solar cells printed like wallpaper.

Solar cells might one day be produced by the roll, as cheaply and easily as wallpaper. Scientists in Arizona are using screen-printing, a technique developed for patterning fabrics, to produce plastic solar cells1.

The technique is another step towards the general availability of solar power from flexible devices on plastic sheets or glass panels. The basic materials of a photovoltaic cell are inexpensive, but combining them into a working device is currently costly. This limits our exploitation of the sun’s potential to provide clean energy.



The organic cells manufactured by Ghassan Jabbour and colleagues at the University of Arizona in Tucson have about a quarter of the efficiency of commercial silicon devices (which turn 10-20 per cent of light energy into electricity). But, being cheap to produce, they can make up in quantity what they lack in quality.

In conventional screen-printing, a taut piece of fabric, patterned by masking some areas with substances such as wax that repel colouring agents, is covered with ink or dye. The screen is then held horizontally over the object to be printed, and a rubber blade is swept across the back, pressing the coloured surface down to produce an image.

Jabbour’s group print very flat, very thin cells onto glass in a similar way. First, they coat the glass with a transparent, electrically conducting material that acts as one of the solar cell’s electrodes. On top of this, they lay down a thin film of a polymer, which helps to gather current from the photovoltaic material.

Finally, they deposit a blend of two organic compounds that convert light into electricity. One, a carbon-based molecule called a fullerene, produces charged particles that carry an electrical current when light shines onto the molecules. The other, a polymer, ferries the current to electrodes on the top and bottom of the cell.

Under blue light, these screen-printed solar cells have an efficiency of 4.3 per cent. They are probably less efficient for white sunlight, so there is work to be done before the devices are good enough for commercial use.

Organic solar cells were first reported last year by Bell Labs in the United States2. hese latest screen-printed cells are based on prototypes made by team member Sean Shaheen and colleagues earlier this year3.

References
  1. Shaheen, S. E., Radspinner, R., Peyghambarian, N. & Jabbour, G. E. Fabrication of bulk heterojunction plastic solar cells by screen printing. Applied Physics Letters, 79, 2996 - 2998, (2001).

  2. Schon, J. H., Kloc, C.H. & Batlogg, B. Efficient photovoltaic energy conversion in pentacene-based heterojunctions. Applied Physics Letters, 77, 2473 - 2475, (2000).

  3. Shaheen, S. E. et al. 2.5% efficient organic plastic solar cells. Applied Physics Letters, 78, 841 - 843, (2001).


PHILIP BALL | © Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/011108/011108-5.html
http://www.nature.com/nsu/

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Hot electrons harvested without tricks
18.11.2019 | University of Groningen

nachricht New laser opens up large, underused region of the electromagnetic spectrum
15.11.2019 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

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: Images from NJIT's big bear solar observatory peel away layers of a stellar mystery

An international team of scientists, including three researchers from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), has shed new light on one of the central mysteries of solar physics: how energy from the Sun is transferred to the star's upper atmosphere, heating it to 1 million degrees Fahrenheit and higher in some regions, temperatures that are vastly hotter than the Sun's surface.

With new images from NJIT's Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), the researchers have revealed in groundbreaking, granular detail what appears to be a likely...

Im Focus: New opportunities in additive manufacturing presented

Fraunhofer IFAM Dresden demonstrates manufacturing of copper components

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM in Dresden has succeeded in using Selective Electron Beam Melting (SEBM) to...

Im Focus: New Pitt research finds carbon nanotubes show a love/hate relationship with water

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are valuable for a wide variety of applications. Made of graphene sheets rolled into tubes 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, CNTs have an exceptional strength-to-mass ratio and excellent thermal and electrical properties. These features make them ideal for a range of applications, including supercapacitors, interconnects, adhesives, particle trapping and structural color.

New research reveals even more potential for CNTs: as a coating, they can both repel and hold water in place, a useful property for applications like printing,...

Im Focus: Magnets for the second dimension

If you've ever tried to put several really strong, small cube magnets right next to each other on a magnetic board, you'll know that you just can't do it. What happens is that the magnets always arrange themselves in a column sticking out vertically from the magnetic board. Moreover, it's almost impossible to join several rows of these magnets together to form a flat surface. That's because magnets are dipolar. Equal poles repel each other, with the north pole of one magnet always attaching itself to the south pole of another and vice versa. This explains why they form a column with all the magnets aligned the same way.

Now, scientists at ETH Zurich have managed to create magnetic building blocks in the shape of cubes that - for the first time ever - can be joined together to...

Im Focus: A new quantum data classification protocol brings us nearer to a future 'quantum internet'

The algorithm represents a first step in the automated learning of quantum information networks

Quantum-based communication and computation technologies promise unprecedented applications, such as unconditionally secure communications, ultra-precise...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

First International Conference on Agrophotovoltaics in August 2020

15.11.2019 | Event News

Laser Symposium on Electromobility in Aachen: trends for the mobility revolution

15.11.2019 | Event News

High entropy alloys for hot turbines and tireless metal-forming presses

05.11.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Volcanoes under pressure

18.11.2019 | Earth Sciences

Scientists discover how the molecule-sorting station in our cells is formed and maintained

18.11.2019 | Life Sciences

Hot electrons harvested without tricks

18.11.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>