Innovations in the field of solar emerge every day, although the competition to develop the next best thing, becomes tougher and tougher by the minute. Yet, eager scientists still take on the challenge and keep surprising us. The latest discovery is a polymer, which might hold the key to cheap, light and efficient solar cells, according to a team of US researchers.
The new plastic-like material has a unique property to boost power production by allowing electrons to travel much faster through the cells than any other existing polymer. Discovered by a team from University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, the so-called PID2 polymer has shown to give an incredible 15% boost to cells’ energy conversion efficiency. This is achieved when the compound is combined with a type of carbon molecule known as fullerene, which is a very typical ingredient in polymer cells, and a second, this time standard, polymer.
According to the authors, the enhancing mechanisms that PID2 uses is the key to their success. Unlike the conventional polymer solar cells, which experience increase their efficiency when there is higher light absorption, PID2 cells allow easier and smoother movement of electrical charge to generate more power. The addition of the new polymer resulted in the highest ever solar cell efficiency, achieved using these three materials- total of 8.2%.
The team is convinced that further research will bring even greater success, although as it is right now, their discovery is already groundbreaking. The ultimate aim of the guys is to achieve the 10% solar cell efficiency, which will allow them to present it as a commercially viable product. Their work definitely opens up new doors towards development of the ultimate cheap, flexible and very light electronic devices, which can be used to harness solar energy.
The findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Nature Photonics.
Image (c) Andrew Nelles