A Simpler Route to Plastic Solar Cells
A new method will reduce the cost and complexity of manufacturing.
By Katherine Bourzac
THURSDAY, JUNE 24, 2010
A simplified process for printing polymer solar cells could further reduce the costs of making the plastic photovoltaics. The method, which has been demonstrated on a large-area, roll-to-roll printing system, eliminates steps in the manufacturing process. If it can be applied to a wide range of polymer materials, it could lead to a fast and cheap way to make plastic solar cells for such applications as portable electronics, photovoltaics integrated into building materials, and smart fabrics.
Polymer solar cells aren't as efficient as silicon ones in converting sunlight into electricity, but they're lightweight and cheap, a trade-off that could make them practical for some applications. And they're compatible with large-area printing techniques such as roll-to-roll processing. But manufacturing the solar cells is challenging, because if the polymers aren't lined up well at the nanoscale, electrons can't get out of the cell. Researchers now use post-printing processing steps to achieve this alignment. Eliminating these extra steps will, University of Michigan researchers hope, bring down manufacturing costs and complexity. more