Sunny Record: Breakthrough for Hybrid Solar Cells

Feb 02, 2010
Image: IMTEK

German scientists at the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) and the Freiburg Materials Research Center (FMF) have succeeded in developing a method for treating the surface of nanoparticles which greatly improves the efficiency of organic solar cells.

The researchers were able to attain an efficiency of 2 percent by using so-called composed of . These measurements, well above the previous efficiency ratings of 1 to 1.8 percent, were confirmed by the "Dye and " research group of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems at the FMF.

The photoactive layer of hybrid solar cells consists of a mixture of inorganic nanoparticles and an . As it is theoretically possible to apply the method developed by the researchers to many nanoparticles, this breakthrough opens up new potential for increasing the efficiency of this type of solar cell even further. The procedure has been patented and the results were published in a recent issue of the journal.

Organic solar cells belong to the so-called third generation of solar cells and are still in the developmental stage. The world record for purely organic solar cells, a type in which both components of the photoactive layer consist of organic materials, is currently at 7 percent for layers created through wet chemical methods. Organic solar cells have many advantages over the conventional cells typically used for large-scale energy production: Not only are they are considerably thinner and more flexible, they are also less expensive and quicker to produce. They are thus better suited for powering everyday devices and systems which are not in constant use, such as sensors or electrical appliances. In the long run, organic solar cells could drastically reduce our dependence on batteries and cables.

The research group which developed the groundbreaking new solar cells is a close-knit team of chemists, physicists, and engineers from IMTEK and FMF. "The interdisciplinary orientation of the group is a clear advantage and has led to rapid progress on the project. We were able to carry out all of the steps on our own: from the synthesis of the nanoparticles to the modification of their surface and integration into composite materials," says group head Dr. Michael Krüger. His "Nanosciences" research group is part of the Chair for Sensors at IMTEK held by Prof. Dr. Gerald Urban. The group is now applying the methods described in the publication to other promising materials systems - also as part of a joint research project sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research - in order to refine them further and shape them into a market-ready technology. The necessary preconditions for marketability are marked improvements in efficiency, a further increase in the durability of the materials, and a reduction in production costs.

The project "Quantum Dot Polymer Hybrids as Photoactive Material in " receives funding from the German Research Foundation through the IMTEK research training group "Micro Energy Harvesting."

Explore further: Tiny wires could provide a big energy boost

Related Stories

Solar Cell Researcher Explores Nanotech Ideas

Oct 05, 2009

( -- A UT Dallas researcher envisions a time soon when plastic sheets of solar cells are inexpensively stamped out in factories and then affixed to cell phones, laptops and other power-hungry mobile ...

Renewable energies : the promise of organic solar cells

Apr 08, 2009

( -- In the race to renewable energy, organic solar cells are now really starting to take off. They can be manufactured easily and cheaply, they have low environmental impact, and since they are compatible with ...

Silver Nanoparticles Give Polymer Solar Cells A Boost

Oct 05, 2009

( -- Small bits of metal may play a new role in solar power. Researchers at Ohio State University are experimenting with polymer semiconductors that absorb the sun’s energy and generate electricity. The goal: ...

Honda to Mass Produce Next-Generation Thin Film Solar Cell

Dec 19, 2005

Honda announced its plan to begin mass production in 2007, of an independently developed thin film solar cell composed of non-silicon compound materials, which requires 50% less energy, and thus generate 50% less CO2, during ...

Recommended for you

Tiny wires could provide a big energy boost

9 hours ago

Wearable electronic devices for health and fitness monitoring are a rapidly growing area of consumer electronics; one of their biggest limitations is the capacity of their tiny batteries to deliver enough ...

Graphene sheets enable ultrasound transmitters

10 hours ago

University of California, Berkeley, physicists have used graphene to build lightweight ultrasonic loudspeakers and microphones, enabling people to mimic bats or dolphins' ability to use sound to communicate ...

Project uses crowd computing to improve water filtration

Jul 06, 2015

Nearly 800 million people worldwide don't have access to safe drinking water, and some 2.5 billion people live in precariously unsanitary conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ...

Engineering the world's smallest nanocrystal

Jul 06, 2015

In the natural world, proteins use the process of biomineralization to incorporate metallic elements into tissues, using it to create diverse materials such as seashells, teeth, and bones. However, the way ...

A stretchy mesh heater for sore muscles

Jul 03, 2015

If you suffer from chronic muscle pain a doctor will likely recommend for you to apply heat to the injury. But how do you effectively wrap that heat around a joint? Korean Scientists at the Center for Nanoparticle ...

Polymer mold makes perfect silicon nanostructures

Jul 03, 2015

Using molds to shape things is as old as humanity. In the Bronze Age, the copper-tin alloy was melted and cast into weapons in ceramic molds. Today, injection and extrusion molding shape hot liquids into ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2.5 / 5 (6) Feb 02, 2010
It would be useful if the author provided some estimated costs per watt of this technology versus conventional solar cells and also for typical coal fired energy. With an efficiency of 2% I expect they've a long way to go to be economically viable.
Feb 02, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1.5 / 5 (2) Feb 03, 2010
It's good that researchers are studying other systems. But at this time of economic world struggling We should be making our primary focus, in solar power, improving efficiency of the highest yielding cells, or and those with the most obtainable future high levels.
1 and 2 percent don't cut it.
1 / 5 (1) Feb 05, 2010
I've got cells from the '70's that are not much better and some from the same period that approach 20% ... Its all a matter of optimizing these newer methodologies for better results. Those seeking a dramatic breakthrough at this point may have to wait. Moore's law may not apply here. ... It took Henry several years to get the flivver working to reasonable efficiencies, keeping the thing running took most of his company's efforts.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.