Is this amazing or what? Researchers from the University of Michigan recently discovered ways to get electrons to go a lot further than ever before in materials that are generally used for organic solar cells.
Organic Material for Solar Cells is Quite Inexpensive
This is nothing like solar cells that are widely used today which are inorganic. The organic cells are generally made of a very flexible carbon-based material such as plastic which are not very expensive by comparison. It is believed that manufacturers could easily crank out rolls of this material in many different colors and other configurations, and it could be laminated into virtually any surface.
Estimates claim that this material could actually be 100 to 1000 times less expensive than solar panels that have been used up to now. Granted – this is a very rough estimation of it future potential, but these solar cells which will be created roll to roll will have several layers of printing.
The Conductance breakthrough Making This Possible
Many scientists believe that this discovery could be a huge game changer in future solar research. This is because organic material is notorious for having very poor conductivity, and this really slows down research. Obviously, with this increase in conductance, we should see faster progress in these studies than we have seen up until now.
This research team indicated that these thin layers of fullerene molecules—which is the very curious round carbon molecule referred to as a Buckyball—allow electrons to move several centimeters further from where they get knocked loose by photons. That is a huge increase; with the organic cells of today, electrons are only able to travel a couple hundred nanometers or even less.
Increasing this ability which will allow electrons to move more freely within organic semiconductors will most likely have very dramatic implications. For instance, the surface on existing organic solar cells has to be covered with a conductive electrode for the collection of electrons at that vital point where they originate. However, these freely moving electrons will now be able to get collected farther away from that point of origination. This would allow manufacturers to shrink these conductive electrodes into invisible grids. This would pave the way for cells that could be transparent so they would be available for use on windows and other such surfaces.
The electrons, as they move among different atoms, are what will create the electric current within solar cells or other electronic components. Today the material of preference has been silicon, which is vastly used in the inorganic solar cells and semiconductors of today, possess very tightly connected atomic networks and this makes it very easy for electrons to move throughout the material. Now we are getting organic material that is showing these qualities.
“You can imagine an energy well as sort of a canyon—electrons fall into it and can’t get back out,” stated Caleb Cobourn, who is a graduate researcher from the University of Michigan Department of Physics and who is also an author for this study. “So they continue to move freely in the fullerene layer instead of recombining in the power-producing layer, as they normally would. It’s like a massive antenna that can collect an electron charge from anywhere in the device.”
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