Organic solar cell nanoconfinement technique doubles electricity output

Oct. 25, 2011
Upton, NY--BNL has improved the electricity output of polymer-based solar cells by confining the light-absorbing/charge-separating material within nanometer-scale pores.

Upton, NY--In a paper entitled "Enhanced charge collection in confined bulk heterojunction organic solar cells" published online October 17, 2011 in Applied Physics Letters, theU.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory explains how to improve the electricity output of a semiconductor material used in polymer-based solar cells. By confining the light-absorbing/charge-separating material within nanometer-scale pores, instead of using it in continuous thin-film sheets, the scientists enhanced the material’s electrical conductivity by more than 500X, and produced polymer solar cells with twice the electricity output for the same amount of absorbed sunlight. The research suggests that nanoscale restructuring could make polymer-based solar cells--potentially manufactured as inexpensively as plastics--more competitive in the marketplace.

"Judged by their physical properties, organic semiconductors should be more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity than they are," said Charles Black, group leader for electronic materials at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN). "One of the goals of our research is to understand why--and to devise new solar cell architectures to improve them."

The team believes the orientation of crystal stacking in a thin film arrangement actively blocks the out-of-plane movement of electrical current. However, confining the same material within nanopores inhibits such long-range crystal alignment, thus removing the roadblocks to out-of-plane current flow.

Solar cells made from the reconfigured material produce twice as much electricity for the same amount of absorbed sunlight, compared to an unconfined, continuous film. While this is a substantial improvement in the material performance, the overall solar device efficiency remains unimproved because the confining nanostructured template occupies valuable space. And that space is not generating electricity.

The team is exploring ways to minimize that wasted space to better leverage the improved material performance. They also plan to investigate whether the nano-containment approach could provide similar benefits for other organic solar materials.

SOURCE: Brookhaven National Laboratory;

IMAGE: An angled view shows an aluminum oxide template (gray) with a regular array of 60 nm holes filled with an organic semiconductor (purple). This nanoconfined semiconducting polymer produces twice the amount of electricity for a given amount of absorbed sunlight as compared to the same material spread as a thin film.(Courtesy Brookhaven National Laboratory)

Sponsored Recommendations

Request a quote: Micro 3D Printed Part or microArch micro-precision 3D printers

April 11, 2024
See the results for yourself! We'll print a benchmark part so that you can assess our quality. Just send us your file and we'll get to work.

Request a free Micro 3D Printed sample part

April 11, 2024
The best way to understand the part quality we can achieve is by seeing it first-hand. Request a free 3D printed high-precision sample part.

How to Tune Servo Systems: The Basics

April 10, 2024
Learn how to tune a servo system using frequency-based tools to meet system specifications by watching our webinar!

Precision Motion Control for Sample Manipulation in Ultra-High Resolution Tomography

April 10, 2024
Learn the critical items that designers and engineers must consider when attempting to achieve reliable ultra-high resolution tomography results here!

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Laser Focus World, create an account today!