Currently, solar cells are difficult to handle, expensive to purchase and complicated to install. The hope is that consumers will one day be able to buy solar cells from their local hardware store and simply hang them like posters on a wall.
A new study by researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has shown that the dream is one step closer to reality. Reporting in the Nov. 26 edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Yang Yang, a professor of materials science and engineering, and colleagues describe the design and synthesis of a new polymer, or plastic, for use in solar cells that has significantly greater sunlight absorption and conversion capabilities than previous polymers.
The research team found that substituting a silicon atom for carbon atom in the backbone of the polymer markedly improved the material's photovoltaic properties.
Yang's lab has reached 5.6% efficiency. Yang thinks 10% efficiency is achievable with plastic photovoltaics.
The new polymer created by Yang's team reached 5.1 percent efficiency in the published study but has in a few months improved to 5.6 percent in the lab. Yang and his team have proven that the photovoltaic material they use on their solar cells is one of the most efficient based on a single-layer, low-band-gap polymer.
While the efficiency is low the use of plastics can deliver a couple of benefits. First off, low cost is a possibility. Second, the light weight and flexibility creates the possibility of installation in locations which could not support heavier weight photovoltaics. For example, long lightweight PV sheets could be hung on the sides of buildings.
The biggest potential downside of a plastic is degradation in response to prolonged light exposure. The product would need to be extremely cheap to make frequent replacement economical.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2008 November 26 12:00 PM Energy Solar|