Cambridge University launches organic solar cell venture

Sept. 20, 2010
Cambridge, England--A new UK company, Eight19 Ltd., is being launched to develop and manufacture high-performance, lower cost plastic solar cells (organic photovoltaics) for high-growth volume markets.  

Cambridge, England--A new UK company, Eight19 Limited., is being launched to develop and manufacture high-performance, lower cost plastic solar cells (organic photovoltaics) for high-growth volume markets.

With improvements in efficiency and lifetime, many observers believe that breakthroughs in organic photovoltaic technology could provide solar power at a price substantially lower than that offered by first and second generation technologies for certain applications, which could open up new markets for solar.

Cambridge Enterprise, the University of Cambridge’s commercialization office, and the Carbon Trust announced that the new company will be spun-out from the Carbon Trust’s Cambridge University-TTP Advanced Photovoltaic Research Accelerator. This latest commercial phase will focus efforts on developing product prototypes, backed by a £4.5 million ($6.75 million) investment from the Carbon Trust and leading international specialty chemicals company Rhodia.

Eight19 has been created in partnership with Professor Sir Richard Friend, Professor Henning Sirringhaus and Professor Neil Greenham of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, and technology development company TTP.

Eight19’s focus on the low cost potential of solar cells made with semiconducting plastics (organic photovoltaics) is built on the Cavendish Laboratory’s capability to develop techniques for fabricating large scale plastic electronic devices on flexible materials using roll-to-roll processes. The company will continue to be actively engaged with the Cavendish and its innovative research output.

The Eight19 team is pursuing a design-for-manufacture strategy that focuses on the unique attributes of organic photovoltaics, combining both specific product performance characteristics and low cost of energy.

Unlike other more familiar thin film solar platforms, organic solar cells are not inherently limited by constraints around material supply and toxicity, and benefit from a number of fundamental advantages including potentially very low cost production enabled by low temperature and high throughput processing typical of plastic films. Organic solar cells potentially deliver further value throughout the supply chain, from ease of installation for construction companies to producers seeking simplified manufacturing integration.

Dr Robert Trezona, Head of R&D at the Carbon Trust said, “The launch of Eight19 and the deployment of low cost organic solar cells could help to revolutionise solar power production by opening up new markets. Cost reduction through the development of advanced technology and innovative design are key to driving forward mass production and making solar power more affordable.”

“This investment is perfectly in line with our strategy to explore new promising market segments fitting with our sustainable development commitment. Furthermore, we are convinced that open innovation is key to leverage our research and development capability. We are happy to work in close partnership with prominent scientists to develop this breakthrough technology”, explains Pascal Juery, Group Executive Vice-President of Rhodia.

Professor Sir Richard Friend, co-founder of Eight19 commented, “This represents a great opportunity to transfer new technology out of the university, based on recent advances in fundamental science. Solar cells made with organic semiconductors work very differently to those made with silicon and are closer in operating principle to photosynthesis in green plants.”

According to the founders, Eight19 is so named because it takes 8 minutes and 19 seconds for light to travel from the sun to the earth.

For more information visit the Carbon Trust

About the Author

Stephen G. Anderson | Director, Industry Development - SPIE

 Stephen Anderson is a photonics industry expert with an international background and has been actively involved with lasers and photonics for more than 30 years. As Director, Industry Development at SPIE – The international society for optics and photonics – he is responsible for tracking the photonics industry markets and technology to help define long-term strategy, while also facilitating development of SPIE’s industry activities. Before joining SPIE, Anderson was Associate Publisher and Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World and chaired the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar. Anderson also co-founded the BioOptics World brand. Anderson holds a chemistry degree from the University of York and an Executive MBA from Golden Gate University.    

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