Lightweight, bendy, cheaper-- the promise of organic photovoltaic panels

Oct 12, 2020 01:54 PM ET
  • Today's silicon solar panels are an industry criterion, but these stiff, hefty blocks might be shunted apart by plastic opponents-- light-weight, flexible photovoltaic panels that could be published and also stuck onto structures or put in home windows or cars and trucks, transforming light into electrical power in locations unattainable to their larger cousins.
Lightweight, bendy, cheaper-- the promise of organic photovoltaic panels
Image: ARMOR/GerArchitektur

The conventional photovoltaic panels we see on houses as well as services are made from crystalline silicon. These stiff photovoltaic or pv (PV) panels transform light into power.

They weigh 20 to 30 kilogrammes per square metre therefore can not be placed conveniently onto all developing roof coverings or onto exteriors. There is an alternative as well as much more flexible rival to silicon PVs, nonetheless.

As opposed to silicon, scientists in Europe are servicing organic photovoltaic or pv (OPV) technologies. Organic simply indicates carbon-containing molecules and OPVs can be considered plastic solar cells. They use benefits over silicon-based photovoltaic panels.

' Their manufacture process (has the potential to be) cheaper, they are light-weight, offer flexibility in their design as well as in principle they can be extra environmentally friendly,' claimed Dr Francesca Fassioli, a theoretical physicist at Princeton University, United States.

Plastic photovoltaic panels can weigh around 500g per square metre-- greater than 40 times lighter than their silicon counterparts. Plastic panels can be attached to the fronts of structures or placed on the roofs of buildings that might battle to safely support standard solar panels. Organic solar cells are also much thinner than silicon solar cells, offering significant financial savings on products, which benefits the setting.

Theoretically, plastic solar cells should also be easier to manufacture. 'The major distinction in between silicon modern technologies and OPV is that we have the ability to print it or coat it onto something as a thin film,' claimed Damien Hau, study, advancement as well as development supervisor at Armor, a design business headquartered in Nantes, France.

Among the company's first such items, released last year, has been mounted on industrial greenhouses near Nantes to offer shade as well as produce electricity. Shield lately bought a German firm, Opvius, that is experts in developing designed plastic solar panels that could be used decoratively on buildings.

Organic PVs can be as thin as a few millimetres in density and also can be placed onto plastic polyester films.

Shield has created thin semi-transparent OPVs that can be fitted inside windowpanes, to ensure that workplace home windows can strain some sunlight while transforming it into electrical power.


While many typical photovoltaic panels are imports, plastic solar panels are a new modern technology that companies in Europe can push forward as a choice.

Practically 90% of all PV panels around the globe today are made from crystalline silicon, which is a recognized innovation on the market for decades. Typically they can convert 18% to 22% of the energy from sunshine right into electrical power.

Organic PV panels are a more recent technology and have the downside of lower effectiveness and higher manufacturing prices-- partly since it is such a small industry, for now.

' These are the two concerns that our new project BOOSTER is working to resolve,' said Hau, describing a brand-new EUR6 million research project that his firm is leading. The consortium will certainly work with the very best light-harvesting molecules, which in labs can approach 17% efficiency today. Criterion panels produce 150 to 200 watts per square metre, whereas business OPVs create 40 watts per square metre. BOOSTER aims to get this up to 150 watts.

It will certainly press also towards lower prices for creating plastic photovoltaic panels. As a more recent technology, several of the elements were not made for these solar panels yet extracted from other gadgets.

For instance, as a natural product, plastic photovoltaic panels need securing from ultraviolet radiation. Today, a thin film is utilized that is needlessly pricey. This is since it was established to secure organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens, which remain in premium televisions as well as require perfect films.

'( Organic solar cells) are light-weight, offer flexibility in their style as well as in principle they can be much more environmentally friendly.'

Dr Francesca Fassioli, Princeton University, US

' We do not require that exact same top quality for a barrier for OPV innovation,' Hau clarified. A freshly developed film details for plastic solar panels could be much less expensive yet still finish the job.

The project consortium, which contains firms and also scholastic companions, will make two demo items. Initially, a stick-on photovoltaic panel that can be connected to a door or floor or cars and truck or roof covering. 'This is to confirm that there is another means to do photovoltaic panels,' Hau stated. The sticky light-harvesting material will be mounted on the head office of the power firm ENI in Rome, Italy.

A 2nd demonstration item will certainly see the plastic solar panel attached to textiles, of the sort that usually cover buildings under improvement. This will be set up on a college structure in Nuremberg, Germany, by a partner in the project.

Planting seeds

While researchers below wish their efforts on natural PVs will birth business fruits in the really future, various other scientists are growing the seeds of future developments in solar power. This holds true with academic physicist Dr Fassioli, that will soon join the group of Professor Stefano Baroni at SISSA in Trieste, Italy.

Theoretical physicists utilize mathematical designs and also theory to clarify the globe around us, ideas which are then evaluated in experiments by others. Albert Einstein that changed physics with suggestions, pen and paper is maybe the most famous theoretical physicist.

In her QuESt project, Dr Fassioli will consequently not be taking care of prototype photovoltaic panels, however rather check out the fundamentals of exactly how organic molecules engage with light, in order to enhance the power conversion performances of organic solar cells.

' This is not concerning developing brand-new molecules,' claimed Dr Fassioli, 'but about exactly how to utilize the typical molecules in an extra smart way.

To streamline, in a photovoltaic panel light is absorbed by molecules which end up being ecstatic and also launch an electron, which produces electrical present.

Dr Fassioli thinks about just how optical dental caries can catch particles of light. Optical cavities essentially consist of two microscopic mirrors to trap light particles (photons). If you put a product inside an optical tooth cavity, a photon is constantly swapped between the material as well as the tooth cavity and this gives rise to a new hybrid state.

The odd hybrid (called a polariton) is constructed from both light as well as issue. The phenomenon includes quantum physics, so can seem counterintuitive, even strange.

This hybrid state 'can involve thousands or countless molecules, such that the molecules no longer act as independent,' stated Dr Fassioli, 'yet they come to be synchronised by the combining to the light in the optical cavity.'

Her project will create scientific publications as well as new expertise as well as ideas about the interaction of issue and light. 'We believe this synchronised collective practices of excited molecules can be made use of to boost the efficiency of photovoltaics,' Dr Fassioli clarified.

'This is a bottom-up approach in terms of understanding systems that will certainly change the properties of (organic solar cells), rather than going after a prompt application for business applications,' kept in mind Dr Fassioli. But the hope is that this job will in future years improve organic solar cells to make sure that they convert even more of the sun's rays right into electricity.