A team of postgraduate researchers, led by prof. Guillermo Bazan, have just announced the discovery of a new method of synthesizing organic polymers for making plastic solar cells. Their discovery drastically reduces the reaction time (99% faster). In the past, the reaction that took place in 48 hours, now only lasts 30 minutes and increases the average molecular weight of the polymer by a factor of more than three.
The methodology, detailed in a recent Nature Chemistry paper, “will greatly accelerate research in this area,” stated Bazan, “by making possible the rapid production of different batches of polymers for evaluation.” He further noted, “We plan to take advantage of this approach both to generate new materials that will increase solar cell efficiencies and operational lifetimes, and to reevaluate previously-considered polymer structures that should exhibit much higher performance than they showed initially.”
To make these gains, the team replaced conventional thermal heating with microwave heating, modified reactant concentrations, and varied the ratio of reactants by only 5% from the nominal 1:1 stoichiometric ratio normally employed in polymerization reactions.
A lowered time of production means lowered costs, which translates into lower prices. Bazan’s polymer production method cuts the overall production time to half of what it was before. I don’t really believe the solar cells’ price will be cut in half, but it helps a lot, anyway.