Published: 24 August 2016

ATI research points to more efficient polymer solar cells

Researchers in Surrey’s ATI have developed a new architecture for polymer solar cells which boosts their efficiency by up to 30 per cent – potentially offering a lower cost option than silicon solar cells.

Worldwide, solar electricity generation is making significant strides, with silicon solar cells currently leading the market in terms of cost and efficiency. While polymer (organic) solar cells offer many advantages – they can be printed in any shape or size, and manufactured at low cost – their efficiency has been hampered by effective extraction of charges from the cells.

The Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has now published research which demonstrates a simple processing technique that enables polymer solar cells to generate 30 per cent more power. The research, which was funded by a project grant by the Leverhulme Trust, was published in the Advanced Electronic Materials journal in July.

Whereas solar cells are typically fabricated using a flat, continuous electrode, the new technique developed in the ATI allows the electrode of the solar cell to be structured, which leads to an enhanced electric field, improving charge extraction.

PhD student Hashini Thirimanne, the publication’s first author, said, “The new device concept developed here forms a novel route through which the power output from polymer solar cells can be improved at low cost. Polymer solar cells are an attractive technology due to the possibility of printing solar cells in any shape and size using low cost organic inks and established printing techniques.”

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and lead author explained, “The next step is to exploit this novel concept using a variety of existing materials and different solar cell architectures. This simple technique aids in increasing the solar cell efficiency with no significant overhead cost in processing. The idea of decreasing the production cost of solar cells by an order of magnitude using polymers is hugely appealing when looking to power the next generation of devices for the Internet of Things.”

The paper is entitled Charge funnelling through metal electrode structuring for high-efficiency gains in polymer solar cells.

Discover our programmes in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.