Photovoltaic devices, which tap the power of the sun and convert it to electricity, offer a green—and potentially unlimited—alternative to fossil fuel use. So why haven’t solar technologies been more widely adopted?
Quite simply, “they’re too expensive,” says Ji-Seon Kim, a senior lecturer in experimental solid-state physics at Imperial College London, who, along with her colleagues, has come up with a technology that might help bring the prices down.
The scientists describe their new approach to making cheaper, more efficient solar panels in a paper in The Journal of Chemical Physics, produced by AIP Publishing.
“To collect a lot of sunlight you need to cover a large area in solar panels, which is very expensive for traditional inorganic—usually silicon—photovoltaics,” explains Kim. The high costs arise because traditional panels must be made from high purity crystals that require high temperatures and vacuum conditions to manufacture.
A cheaper solution is to construct the photovoltaic devices out of organic compounds—building what are essentially plastic solar cells. Organic semiconducting materials, and especially polymers, can be dissolved to make an ink and then simply “printed” in a very thin layer, some 100 billionths of a meter thick, over a large area. “Covering a large area in plastic is much cheaper than covering it in silicon, and as a result the cost per Watt of electricity-generating capacity has the potential to be much lower,” she says.
Read more at: Phys.org