Published: 27 January 2015

Scaling up of graphene to power the Internet of Things

Research in the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) proves that organic solar cells based on graphene can be scaled up to large areas without losing efficiency.

While conventional solar cells are typically very small (around 1mm2), researchers in the ATI have demonstrated that by incorporating graphene nanomaterials, they can be scaled up to fifty times this size without sacrificing conversion efficiency.  These next generation solar cells have the potential to power remote devices which will underpin the ‘Internet of Things’ – the emerging technological revolution in which devices, as well as people, will be permanently connected.

Results of the research, which was funded by the government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), were published in ‘Applied Physics Letters’ in August 2014.

Headed by Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI, the research team used graphene oxide – a chemically modified form of graphene – as an electrical transport layer within the solar cell. This has resulted in a more efficient cell which converts more of the light falling on it into electricity.  

One of the most exciting technological developments of the last decade, highlighted by the award of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010, graphene has exceptional physical, optical and electrical properties which pave the way for innovations across a wide range of industries.

Professor Silva commented, “At the ATI we are focused on finding real world solutions to some of the most technologically challenging problems – none bigger than green energy production. In this study, we demonstrate some of the largest power conversion efficiencies yet, utilising novel interface layers based on graphene, produced via the Surrey Graphene Centre. The differences are at a suitable level to power remote devices for the Internet of Things.”

The study builds on the ATI’s extensive research into carbon nanomaterials over the past decade. In the field of graphene-based materials, the ATI has on-going worldwide collaborations with institutions including the Universidade Federal de Pelotas, Brazil, the University of Hyderabad, India, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China.

The research paper, ‘Graphene oxide hole transport layers for large area, high efficiency organic solar cells’, was published in the journal ‘Applied Physics Letters’. The project was sponsored by DSTL as part of the DSTL UK PhD programme. DSTL provides funding for PhD projects in a wide range of fields at universities across the UK.


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