Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Princeton University Tripled Organic Solar Cell Efficiency

An organic solar cell is a type of polymer solar cell which is notorious for its low efficiency of less than 5%, as compared to 20% of efficiency for standard silicon solar cell. Researchers at Princeton University, USA, have found a simple and economical way to tackle this problem by nearly triple the efficiency of organic solar cells.

The researchers, led by electrical engineer Professor Stephen Chou, were able to increase the efficiency of the solar cells 175% by using a nanostructured "sandwich" of metal and plastic. This nanotechnology helps to overcome two primary challenges that cause solar cells to lose energy: light reflecting from the cell, and the inability to fully capture light that enters the cell.

The "sandwich" called a subwavelength plasmonic cavity has an extraordinary ability to dampen reflection and trap light. It allows 96% of light absorption in the material. It demonstrates 52% higher efficiency in converting light to electrical energy than a conventional solar cell.

The structure achieves even higher efficiency for light that strikes the solar cell at large angles, which occurs on cloudy days or when the cell is not directly facing the sun. By capturing these angled rays, the new structure boosts efficiency by an additional 81%, leading to a 175% total increase.

Chou said the system is ready for commercial use although, as with any new product, there will be a transition period in moving from the lab to mass production.

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