Plastic Solar Cells

While the cost of solar panels in general is decreasing, the main material solar cells are made of may become scarce in the future. This is silicon, and it’s in high demand as it’s used in many industries – for instance at the manufacturing of computer components or for waterproofing treatments. Scientists have however announced the development of the first plastic solar cell. Is this maybe a solution for the future?

The Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics at Georgia Tech has discovered a new method for printing electronics. The process itself is not new as it has been used at organic solar cells or OLEDs but until now the manufacturing stage was more problematic due to potential chemical reactions by the metals that have been used. The new technique could solve the issue by applying a thin layer of polymer on the surface of the conductors, which will chemical reactions and does not need an extra layer of protection. Thus the manufacturing process can become more stable, and as electronics can be printed onto plastic, it shall become cheaper and easier. And also the polymer used is cheap, easily available and environmentally friendly.

Earlier, researchers at the University of California developed a polymer solar cell, which efficiency exceeded even those made of silicon. It features two layers of plastic that react to different bands of light: visible and infrared, which enables the increase of efficiency.

Konarka Power Plastic usage

Konarka already offers its solar product, Power Plastic, which is thin, flexible and comes in various colours – including transparent design. They have been specially applied on bags or on various surfaces, like carport tops or tents.

Another company, Solarmer Energy has also developed an organic plastic solar panel, with several great features that offer new fields of application, including portable electronics, smart fabrics and buildings.

Polymer solar cells are not only thin and light, but their low cost could mean a significant price drop for this market, and researchers are already working on the manufacturing challenges.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image: Konarka

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