Organic Solar Cell: Changing the Solar Industry

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The solar industry has constantly introduced technologies and products to the market. One of the most revolutionary inventions is the organic solar cell. This photovoltaic device is considered a sustainable source of renewable energy that harnesses the power of the sun, reducing the reliance on fossil fuels.

This blog covers detailed information about these eco-friendly cells and explores their benefits and how advances are shaping their performance.

What is an Organic Solar Cell?

An organic solar cell (OSC) is also known as an organic photovoltaic or plastic solar cell. It is a type of photovoltaic device that utilizes organic electronics to convert sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. Unlike traditional solar cells made of inorganic materials like silicon, organic solar cells use conductive organic polymers or small organic molecules for light absorption and charge transport.

How does an Organic Solar Cell Work?

Organic photovoltaics work on the principle of converting sunlight into electricity using organic materials. These materials are called organic semiconductors and can absorb photons and generate electric charges. When sunlight hits the organic layer, it excites the electrons, causing them to jump to a higher energy level. This creates electron-hole pairs, which are then separated by an electric field within the cell. Electrodes collect these separated charges and form an electric current. This generated electricity can be used to power various devices, making organic photovoltaics a promising renewable energy technology.

Benefits of Organic Solar Cells

Organic photovoltaics offer several advantages over traditional solar cell technologies. Here are some key benefits:

  • These cells are lighter in weight compared to silicon solar cells.
  • They can be designed to be semi-transparent, allowing for innovative applications such as solar windows.
  • OPVs are made using organic materials, which are more sustainable and have a lower environmental impact compared to traditional solar cell materials.
  • These cells can be manufactured using low-cost materials and processes, resulting in potentially lower production costs.
  • Flexibility: Organic solar cells can be fabricated on flexible substrates, enabling the production of flexible and lightweight solar panels that can be integrated into various surfaces.

Applications of Organic Solar Cells in Various Sectors

Here are some of the applications of organic solar cells in various sectors:

●     Portable and Wearable Devices

OPVs have low weight, easy shaping, and performance control through chemical modification, making them suitable for integration into small, portable electronics.

●     Building-Integrated Photovoltaics

OSCs have the ability to create colored or transparent devices, which makes them appealing for architectural integration such as outdoor lighting.

●     Power Generation in Remote Areas

OPVs can be used to generate power in areas where traditional power infrastructure is lacking. They can be used to power remote sensors, communication devices, or small-scale electronics in rural or remote areas.

●     Electric Vehicles

OPVs in electric vehicles (EVs) can provide additional energy for the vehicle’s propulsion or to energize its accessories, such as an air conditioner, ventilation, heated passenger seats, and interior lighting.

3 Innovations in Organic Solar Cells

Below are three major advancements in OPVs:

1.   Four-Terminal Organic Solar Cell

Researchers from ICFO have created a four-terminal organic solar cell with a tandem configuration, achieving a power conversion efficiency of 16.94%. The configuration optimizes photon absorption and enhances solar energy production efficiency compared to a two-terminal approach.

The researchers used an ultrathin transparent silver electrode of only 7 nm, which is crucial for optimizing the performance of the tandem solar cell. The cell has an ultrathin transparent silver electrode placed at the back of the front cell, ensuring good light transmission to power the back cell. The device achieved 16.94% efficiency, which is currently the highest efficiency for a four-terminal tandem organic cell.

2.   Waterproof and Blendable OPV

Researchers from Japan’s RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science have developed a waterproof and ultrathin organic photovoltaic (OPV) film using a hole transport layer (HTL) based on silver oxide (AgOx).

The film, which typically consists of several layers, was deposited directly onto the active layers using a thermal annealing process. This cell shows that OPVs with AgOx/Ag electrodes remain stable even when subjected to mechanical deformation underwater. It also survived a washing machine cycle, retaining 96% of its original power conversion efficiency.

3.   Hemispherical OPV

Abdullah Gül University has developed a hemispherical shell shape for organic photovoltaic cells, aiming to maximize light absorption and angular coverage. This innovative configuration uses three-dimensional finite element analysis (FEA) to examine light interactions and exhibited a 66% increase in light absorption as opposed to flat-structured devices and a 36% improvement for TM (transverse magnetic)-polarized light.

The hemispherical shell structure also offers expanded angular coverage of up to 81 degrees for TE polarization and 82 degrees for TM polarization. This ability makes it suitable for applications like wearable electronics. The hemispherical shell shape marks a significant leap forward in organic solar cell design, paving the way for a brighter, more sustainable future powered by renewable energy.

In a Nutshell

Organic solar cells hold great promise as a viable alternative to traditional silicon-based solar cells. The unique properties of organic materials, such as their flexibility and lightweight, make them attractive for various applications. Advancements such as hemispherical shell shape, waterproof and blendable properties, and four-terminal OPVs are improving the performance of these cells. In the future, we can expect OPVs to overcome hurdles and unlock their full potential in achieving sustainable and renewable energy solutions.

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