Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Technique Studies How Plastic Solar Cells Turn Sunlight into Electricity

13.12.2006
A new analytical technique that uses infrared spectroscopy to study light-sensitive organic materials could lead to the development of cheaper, more efficient solar cells. Using infrared (IR) spectroscopy to study the vibrations of atoms within the material, the technique provides information about the movement of electrons within a film of carbon-based materials.

Obtaining this information is a critical step in the development of a new class of solar cells, which promise significant savings in production costs compared to conventional silicon-based cells. The new analytical technique, published as the cover story in this week's issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry B, was developed by a team led by Penn State University researcher John B. Asbury, assistant professor of chemistry.

Organic photovoltaic devices (OPV) have become important because they are much less expensive to produce than silicon-based solar cells. The material consists of a film made of two different types of chemicals: a polymer that releases an electron when it is struck by a photon of light and a large molecule that accepts the freed electrons, which is based on the soccer-ball-shaped "buckminsterfullerene" carbon molecules popularly known as "buckyballs." Because the electrical interactions needed to produce an electric current occur at the interfaces of the two components of this polymer blend, materials scientists need to understand the arrangement of molecules in the film. Asbury's new analytical technique provides a closer look at this arrangement than the techniques that traditionally have been used. Previous studies, using atomic-force microscopy, supply general information about the packing of the molecules, but they provide very limited information about the interfaces where the molecules actually come together. IR spectroscopy, on the other hand, provides a more detailed picture of the interface by tracing the exchange of electrons between two molecules of the film.

"The problems with OPVs today are that they are not efficient enough and they tend to stop working over time," says Asbury. In order to develop a useful electric current, the flow between the two components must be optimized. "To improve performance, we need to understand what happens at the molecular level when light is converted to electrons," Asbury explains.

When the film is exposed to light, each photon excites an electron in the polymer. If an interface between the polymer molecule and the functionalized buckminsterfullerene exists, a current can be produced. However, in the materials developed to date, many of the electrons appear to become sidetracked. Asbury exposes the film to light using ultrashort laser pulses, which causes photons of light to be converted to electrons across the entire surface at the same time. Two-dimensional IR spectroscopy is used to monitor the vibration of the molecules within the film. "The vibrations of the molecules are strongly affected by the presence or absence of electrons," says Asbury. "We use these vibrations as a probe to track the movement of electrons. By varying the structures of the materials, we expect to identify the side paths that reduce efficiency and ultimately to use that information to guide material design." The ultimate goal is a solar cell that is sufficiently inexpensive and efficient that it can be used on a rooftop to provide the electrical energy needed in a building.

In addition to Asbury, the Penn State research team includes graduate students Larry W. Barbour and Maureen Hegadorn. The work was funded by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, the Petroleum Research Fund, and Penn State.

Barbara K. Kennedy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psu.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Computer model predicts how fracturing metallic glass releases energy at the atomic level
20.07.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht What happens when we heat the atomic lattice of a magnet all of a sudden?
18.07.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Detecting damage in non-magnetic steel with the help of magnetism

23.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

Researchers move closer to completely optical artificial neural network

23.07.2018 | Information Technology

Enabling technology in cell-based therapies: Scale-up, scale-out or program in-place

23.07.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>