Team creates a low cost thin film photovoltaic device with high energy efficiency

Dec 26, 2013
Thin film photovoltaic device

A group of researchers led by Hendrik Bolink of the Institut de Ciència Molecular (ICMol) of the Scientific Park of the University of Valencia has developed a thin film low cost photovoltaic device with high power conversion efficiency. The results of this work, done in collaboration with researchers of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, were published in the scientific magazine Nature Photonics.

The solar cell developed by the researchers of the ICMol consists of a thin perovskite film sandwiched in between two very thin organic semiconductors. The total thickness of the device is less than half a micrometer, less than a millions' part of a meter. The hybrid organic-inorganic perovskite material can be prepared easily and at low cost. Hendrik Bolink explains that these devices were prepared with low temperature processes similar to those used in the printing industry which allows the use of plastic substrates such that flexible devices can be prepared.

It is also possible to make the device semitransparent which allows their integration with building facades since they are very thin and light weight. In this way the sun light is filtered protecting the building interior from intense sun light while at the same electricity is generated.

An 85% of the that convert sun light into electricity are based on crystalline silicon, an expensive material, whereas the rest use polycrystalline thin film cells, mostly cadmium telluride/cadmium sulfide. These thin film cells are cheaper to produce yet are based on rare and rather toxic elements. Therefore, "the demonstration of high efficiency in thin film solar cells based on abundantly available and cheap materials like as used in these perovskite based solar cells, allows for an increasing share of solar energy in the mix of renewable resources" according to Dr. Bolink. 

Dr. Bolink obtained his PhD in Materials Science at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands in 1997. He worked at the chemical multinational DSM as a materials scientist and project manager in the central research and new business development department, respectively. In 2001 he joined Philips, to lead the materials development activity of Philips´s PolyLED project. 

Since 2003 Dr. Bolink is at the ICMol of the University of Valencia where he initiated a research line on molecular opto-eletronic devices. He has published 125 scientific papers in international journals and has been main scientist in eleven European research projects, currently three of them are still active. 

Explore further: Precision gas sensor could fit on a chip

More information: Perovskite solar cells employing organic charge transport layers. O. Malinkiewicz, Y. Aswani, Y. H. Lee, M. Minguez Espallargas, M. Graetzel, M. K. Nazeeruddin and H. J. Bolink. Nature Photonics DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2013.341

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User comments : 10

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4.5 / 5 (4) Dec 26, 2013
So what does "high efficiency" mean? How about some numbers FFS - or is this just some cheap tabloid with innumerate journalists?
5 / 5 (2) Dec 26, 2013
From the link
"high power-conversion efficiencies (12%). To ensure a high purity, the perovskite layers were prepared by sublimation in a high-vacuum chamber. This simple planar device structure and the room-temperature deposition processes are suitable for many conducting substrates, including plastic and textiles."
1 / 5 (1) Dec 28, 2013
Still horribly expensive, i guess. Solar "researchers", please don't announce anything more until solar watt price drops under the wind/utility watt !! Frankly, we don't care about your expensive, unmarketed, secret recipes of thin solar cells !!
4 / 5 (4) Dec 28, 2013
Frankly, we don't care about your expensive, unmarketed, secret recipes of thin solar cells !!

Read a technology website if you don't care about science, but you should care about science, because science is much better than you.
not rated yet Dec 28, 2013
Every little step, and hopefully faster and faster.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 29, 2013
Frankly, we don't care about your expensive, unmarketed, secret recipes of thin solar cells !!

Read a technology website if you don't care about science, but you should care about science, because science is much better than you.

Joe, i didnt mean it that way.
You know the way i meant it.
Anything expensive which is not amortizable in under 5-6 yr is not interesting for the consumer.
For example, if you don't have a solar panel, that's because you are not interested in it.

I care about science, but look we already have 35 yr of "advances" in solar cells...
Advances... in the labs.
Please, answer only if you find cells amortizable in under 6 yr. at a location on the 45 deg. paralel.
I will buy them.
I want them on the market, not in the labs.
You too. Don't know why you criticize and insult me !
Have a good 2014.
1 / 5 (1) Dec 29, 2013
if you care about science, that's great, enjoy 2014 my man!

but if you want to speak like a boring consumer, may I suggest you take your ego over to
1 / 5 (1) Dec 29, 2013
I' m also frustrated that new solar technology is taking a long time, but it's not the fault of the researchers, it's the fault of wealthy investors who provide such little funding to researchers, too interested in making profit so they prefer to invest in prospecting resources and other 'safe bets' instead of developing renewable energy to the level it should be.
not rated yet Dec 29, 2013
"Please, answer only if you find cells amortizable in under 6 yr. at a location on the 45 deg. paralel."

You may be interested in an article like this one ducti.


Many of the research advances from yesterday are in the real world today. Of course it takes time go from lab to real world - the main issue companies have to be concerned about is degradation over time. It is one thing to get 20% in the lab, another one to ensure that the panel is going to keep it's production up over 25 years. Of course companies have to be cautious - there is huge liability involved if you warranty a panel for 25 years.

not rated yet Dec 29, 2013
Anything expensive which is not amortizable in under 5-6 yr is not interesting for the consumer.

There's other considerations. Consumers like to be able to plan ahead with their funds. There's a large variability in energy prices which makes investing in systems (like solar panels on your roof) that will put your energy bill on a more consistent footing attractive - even if amortization time is longer. If you have to deal with large variability that means there are funds you have to keep in reserve in case of the variability going towards a 'worst case' scenario. Freeing up these funds can make long term investments attractive overall (by giving you more truly disposable income per year).

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