The Rise of Organic Photovoltaics

Flexible, organic solar cell module

What is OPV?

For the last three decades, solar energy, specifically third generation solar cells, has been given significant attention in order to surpass its technical and material barriers towards high efficiency and commercialization. One of these is the revolutionary and rapidly emerging solar photovoltaic technology, the OPV. Organic Photovoltaics (OPV) are made up of carbon-based materials which are more abundant in nature, making it less costly to manufacture, unlike the conventional silicon-based photovoltaic cells. Furthermore, OPV can be made of flexible compounds of which are transparent. This can be printed into thin rolls of plastic which is lightweight and ideal for mass production.

Status of OPV in the Solar Industry

Energy efficiency of a solar panel is the measure of how much of the sun’s energy can be converted into viable electricity. Currently, the absolute theoretical maximum efficiency percentage of a solar panel made up of conventional silicon cells is 29.1%. OPV, on the other hand, has just recently reached a percentage efficiency high of over 16% with a surface area of one square centimetre. This is a revolutionary breakthrough since last year wherein the maximum efficiency was just at 12.25%.

The success of the 16% high efficiency lies behind the use of chlorinated non-fullerene acceptors, which enables a more pronounced role in enhancing intramolecular charge transfer. However, production of prototypes is still on hold until further improvement is achieved for it to be able to compete with silicon and perovskite solar cells.

OPV and its Promising Future

The profound evolution of solar cells has paved way for the development of OPVs and the solar industry itself. With continuous innovative efforts of improving the performance of these organic photovoltaics, it is not a long way until their efficiencies can match with the conventional ones. The revolutionary capabilities of these OPVs will not only enable lower costs of production, but it will also provide a wide range of practical applications due to its light weight and transparency. Such applications are its incorporation to buildings and roofs which have structures not suitable for rigid and heavy conventional silicon-based panels; and its integration to everyday objects such as mobile phones, glasses, and windows. The future contributions and achievements of OPV are promising. From previous unimaginable accomplishments to soon viable commercial production for all, OPV has truly revolutionized the way we see solar.

References:

https://phys.org/news/2018-11-fine-tuning-record-breaking.html

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-10351-5

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-45132427

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2542435119300327

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