Organic Solar Cells Reach Spectacular New Levels of Energy

The BBC has recorded great advancement in the technology of organic solar cells.


The most important thing to know about organic cells is that they are made of carbon-based materials rather than silicon, and that they will provide an incredible amount of cost savings in production as well. 

Organic solar cells are defined differently from traditional solar panels and cells that require fixed installation points. These organic photovoltaics (OPV) are built from compounds dissolved in ink, making them printable on plastic, with these thin rolls flexible and adaptable to all placement or installation. Organic solar cells can bend or curve around any structure, included in clothing, or made any color or transparent to blend into the location of installation, even windows. Basically, as research and development advances organic solar cells could provide power and chargers with you everywhere, no matter where you are on the go. 

Considering the fact that carbon-based materials can now be used to create organic solar cells that are being researched for more efficient in addition to their clean quality. Given the fact that solar energy, like photovoltaic cells, has the potential to save incredibly in cost there is now even greater potential for efficiency in the amount of energy they will provide along with the length of life for each organic solar cell. Organic solar cells have recently increased to the level of 15% efficiency which matches the range of current solar equipment on the market.  

Compared to the past few years where researchers were stuck at the level of 11-12% efficiency, this has been a great improvement in productivity of organic solar cells, leading to their potential placement on the market as well. The OPV solar cells are recently stacked to help reach the peak efficiency level of 15%, adding to the productivity of these cells as well. This will hopefully lead to increased production of these organic solar cells and eventually putting them on the market. 

According to Science Daily earlier this year, “By themselves, the [organic solar] cells achieve 10- to 11-percent efficiency,” Che said. “When we stack them together, we increase light absorption and efficiency improves to 15 percent with an antireflection coating.” There is a system of combined specialized layers that absorb both visible and infrared light, two organic solar cells…”The idea is that one organic solar cell will absorb visible light and a second organic solar cell will absorb infrared light, making the stacked cells more efficient in both energy production and cost.

Why are organic solar cells so minimally used?  

Basically, the lack of efficiency in these organic solar cells keeps them off the market behind the ability of traditional solar cells that are made of silicon. With traditional efficiency for the photovoltaic cell ranging from 15-22%, and the world record of the silicon cell reaching 27.3% just this summer in the UK, there is still much to be gained as the efficiency of the organic solar cell increases. 

As mentioned before, the efficiency rate of the organics at the maximum of around 11% for a single organic solar cell, research has recently found that the ability to stack these cells has recently created 15% efficiency. Basically, with that found so quickly, researchers anticipate that as much as 25% is possible with the continued study of these organic solar cells. Additionally, it is important that with the increased efficiency of these cells and the expectation of a 20-year lifetime, the cost of electricity from organic solar cells would be less than 7 cents per kilowatt-hour. As of 2017 “the average cost of electricity in the US was 10.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to the US Energy Information Administration.”1 So, there is the potential for electricity costs to drop significantly if the development of the organic solar cell is complete and on the market in the near future. 

How far are OPV solar cells from commercial production?

Organic solar cells are not quite in commercial production yet, but much is coming in how they will be even more efficient than existing solar panels, and more efficient than the batteries that we have used in the past. Some of the researchers in this recent study have compared “the OPV to organic light-emitting diodes, or OLED,” a recent technology that is used for high-end TVs.”1 

It looks like we have fast-coming potential for these flexible organic solar cells, with their ability to work indoors. With the ability to be semi-transparent, the organic solar cells can be incorporated into windows as easily as other locations, generating power in the daytime. Weighing much less than silicon, the organic solar cells will be much more easily incorporated to buildings and roofs that are unable to hold heavy traditional panels. Long-term expectations exist for car roofs, clothes, glasses, outdoor camping gear and much more, meaning that organic solar cells will offer a great deal of use for affordable, efficient organic solar power in the future leading to much cleaner energy sources in every step of life. 

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