Polymer scientist is laying groundwork for next-generation flexible photovoltaics

Jul 12, 2011

University of Massachusetts Amherst polymer scientist Ryan Hayward recently received a five-year, $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to improve understanding of the fundamentals for the next generation of lightweight and flexible electricity-conducting polymers. They are in limited use now in thin solar panels on messenger bags that can recharge a cell phone battery, for example.

Hayward and colleagues will study the physics of how crystallize and how they can be used to build solar-power-collecting with the optimal combination of p-type/n-type (P-N) junctions for efficient light harvesting. This is expected to lead to a new crop of more cost-effective that are more efficient at conducting electrons than current technology.

When sunlight hits a , electrons become excited and move to P-N junctions, then out of the device as electric power. One problem at present is that the motion of charges through polymer-based often is slowed to a crawl, a flow rate more like the stop-and-go of local traffic than a smooth expressway. One goal of Hayward and colleagues’ new research will be figuring out how to allow electrons to flow faster, enhancing the efficiency and cost effectiveness of charge transport in photovoltaics.

"As electronic materials, polymers have promise in terms of low cost and ease of processing," he says. "These materials are light and flexible, so they can be dissolved into a solution and sprayed onto a surface. There are now small available that are so flexible you can role them up like a map." But such applications are still rather expensive and not as efficient as they could be at producing electric power.

The UMass Amherst research group will conduct basic experiments to understand mechanisms involved in controlling structure and improving conjugated polymer performance. They will study self assembly of these materials across multiple length scales and develop new methods for preparing P-N junctions capable of efficient charge transport.

"For polymer-based electronics it’s important to understand the structure of P-N junctions both on the length-scale of 10 nanometers, which is important for harvesting light, and on the scale of Angstroms, which is important for charge transport. We’ll be trying to assemble new materials where we can control both the crystalline or molecular scale ordering and the nanoscale organization," Hayward points out.

As experts in polymer self-assembly, Hayward and colleagues will work with fellow UMass Amherst polymer scientist Todd Emrick and his research group, who synthesize a number of semi-conducting polymer materials.

"These are really interesting problems in fundamental science," Hayward notes. "We anticipate that the lessons we learn will be useful for many other areas in addition to photovoltaics, such as for polymer-based LEDs and transistors and other types of polymer-based electronics."

Explore further: A refined approach to proteins at low resolution

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Looking deeply into polymer solar cells

Sep 13, 2009

Researchers from the Eindhoven University of Technology and the University of Ulm have made the first high-resolution 3D images of the inside of a polymer solar cell. This gives them important new insights ...

SSRL Aids Development of Plastic Electronics

May 04, 2006

For close to a decade, researchers have been trying to improve the performance of plastic semiconductors to the level of amorphous silicon—the semiconductor used in low-cost electronics such as photovoltaic ...

Chemists Identify New Way to Create Photovoltaic Devices

Apr 01, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A promising new polymer-based method for creating photovoltaic devices, which convert sunlight into electricity, has been identified by chemists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. ...

Researchers at UA developing next-gen conductive polymers

Dec 23, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Conductive polymers, while not quite wonder materials, have the potential for being so and University of Akron polymer scientists and polymer engineers are focused on developing the next generation ...

Recommended for you

A refined approach to proteins at low resolution

Sep 19, 2014

Membrane proteins and large protein complexes are notoriously difficult to study with X-ray crystallography, not least because they are often very difficult, if not impossible, to crystallize, but also because ...

Base-pairing protects DNA from UV damage

Sep 19, 2014

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich researchers have discovered a further function of the base-pairing that holds the two strands of the DNA double helix together: it plays a crucial role in protecting ...

Smartgels are thicker than water

Sep 19, 2014

Transforming substances from liquids into gels plays an important role across many industries, including cosmetics, medicine, and energy. But the transformation process, called gelation, where manufacturers ...

Separation of para and ortho water

Sep 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Not all water is equal—at least not at the molecular level. There are two versions of the water molecule, para and ortho water, in which the spin states of the hydrogen nuclei are different. ...

User comments : 0