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article imageManufacturing inexpensive solar cells through new technology

By Tim Sandle     Feb 2, 2017 in Environment
One of the leading renewable energy solutions is solar power. The application is hampered by energy conversion efficiency and restricted by where panels can be positioned. Organic superconductors address the efficiency issue.
To create low cost and effective solar cells, Professors Ursula Mazur and K.W. Hipps, from Washington State University, used chemical methods to grow chain-like arrangements of organic nanostructures (from common organic materials like porphyrins). By experimenting with mathematical models the chemists were able to determine that precise molecular arrangements that were the optimal conductors of light and electricity. This required manipulations of the growing crystals at the nanoscale. Various nanocrystal concoctions were tested until the optimal configuration was achieved. Optimization was measured by the electrical current passing through the crystalline structure.
The research is important because conventionally metal (silicon) based semi-conductors are more efficient at conducting electricity than organic ones. However, metal semi-conductors are far more expensive to produce. The research team succeeded in creating low cost organic semi-conductors for solar cells with the same capacity as metal-based ones. The new material is also light-weight, giving it a wider range of uses for industry and domestic settings.
The outcome has been deemed significant in the advancement of organic semiconductors, and the research has been recognized as one of 2016’s most influential research publications.
Speaking with Controlled Environments magazine, Professor Mazur explains: “The organic semiconducting materials we are making have many advantages.” He describes these as: “Not only are they lightweight and flexible but they are also easy to transport and can be grown into almost any arrangement you can imagine. They could be used to make inexpensive solar cells and for many other alternative energy applications.”
Further research is being undertaken to fine-tune the crystal structure further and work is taking place to use the organic structure to develop highly conductive materials for solar power generation.
The research has been published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry. The study is titled “Comprehensive structure–function correlation of photoactive ionic π-conjugated supermolecular assemblies: an experimental and computational study.”
More about Solar power, Solar cells, Superconducting, Renewable energy, Energy
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