Improved solar panels and printed electronics on the horizon with new discovery

January 15, 2015 by David Scott
solar panels

New and improved solar panels could result from the discovery of a new liquid crystal material, making printable organic solar cells better performing. 

Published today in Nature Communications, University of Melbourne researchers say their discovery of the highly sought-after 'nematic liquid crystals' can now lead to vastly improved organic solar cell performance. 

Lead author Dr David Jones of the University's School of Chemistry and Bio 21 Institute, said these cells will be easier to manufacture, with the new crystals now able to work in cells that are double in thickness on the previous limit of 200 nanometers. 

"We have improved the performance of this type of solar cell from around 8 per cent efficient to 9.3 per cent, finally approaching the international benchmark of 10 per cent." 

It means that consumers can look forward to more competitive pricing in the solar energy sector, and according to Dr Jones, the discovery is a shot-in-the-arm for the whole organic materials sector.  "The discovery is a step forward for the wider commercialization of printed organic .  But more than this, could aid in the development of new materials with improved performance such as LCD screens." 

Uptake of the current generation of has lagged behind more widespread silicon-based models, due to their comparative lack of performance even with a simplified construction via large printers.

This is despite the organic models providing an unparalleled degree of versatility in how they are used; they can be shaped to fit nearly any surface area, as opposed to the traditional 'grid' formation of silicon-based cells.

"It had been theorized that a certain group of nematic liquid crystals would provide excellent electronic properties – as well as being printable – and therefore they had been sought for a long time," said Dr Jones.  "With this research, we have shown for the first time these high performing materials."

"We've seen recently at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas that printable electronics have an exciting future, as parts of phones and even cars.  This could help improve the performance of these solar cells, and lead to even more innovation in the coming years," concluded Dr Jones.

Explore further: New research could lead to less expensive solar panels

More information: "A molecular nematic liquid crystalline material for high-performance organic photovoltaics," Nature Communications 6, Article number: 6013 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7013

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5 / 5 (1) Jan 15, 2015
Just imagine printable electronics on glass, or solar panels on your south facing windows.
5 / 5 (2) Jan 15, 2015
It is so cool to actually watch it happening in real time. Solar is now at grid parity in many U.S. cities http://www.greent...s-cities

Mega solar manufacturing plants are being built around the world (scale will lead to lower prices) http://cleantechn...g-plant/

And research projects like this provide almost certainty that costs will keep coming down.

Oil and gas industry has had to let prices collapse - but of course it is a death spiral for them.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 19, 2015
Eikka is going to tell us it will plug up our sprayers.
not rated yet Jan 19, 2015
See this?

Solar PV is an effort to undo that by giving us some power over Big Money Power. It is time we took back our nation from the super-rich who have ruined it for everybody else.

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