Clean Power

Published on April 26th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


Printing TVs as Thin as Paper, & 1st Completely Plastic Solar Cell

April 26th, 2012 by  

The title of the Georgia Tech news release, “Stable Electrodes for Improving Printed Electronics,” might not have caught your eye, but this is some totally cool research. Here’s more from Georgia Tech (images via Georgia Tech but placed into the piece by me):

Completely plastic solar cell and Georgia Tech researchers.

Imagine owning a television with the thickness and weight of a sheet of paper. It will be possible, someday, thanks to the growing industry of printed electronics. The process, which allows manufacturers to literally print or roll materials onto surfaces to produce an electronically functional device, is already used in organic solar cells and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) that form the displays of cellphones.

flexible plastic organic solar cells

Although this emerging technology is expected to grow by tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 years, one challenge is in manufacturing at low cost in ambient conditions. In order to create light or energy by injecting or collecting electrons, printed electronics require conductors, usually calcium, magnesium or lithium, with a low-work function. These metals are chemically very reactive. They oxidize and stop working if exposed to oxygen and moisture. This is why electronics in solar cells and TVs, for example, must be covered with a rigid, thick barrier such as glass or expensive encapsulation layers.

However, in new findings published in the journal Science, Georgia Tech researchers have introduced what appears to be a universal technique to reduce the work function of a conductor. They spread a very thin layer of a polymer, approximately one to 10 nanometers thick, on the conductor’s surface to create a strong surface dipole. The interaction turns air-stable conductors into efficient, low-work function electrodes.

The commercially available polymers can be easily processed from dilute solutions in solvents such as water and methoxyethanol.

“These polymers are inexpensive, environmentally friendly and compatible with existent roll-to-roll mass production techniques,” said Bernard Kippelen, director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics (COPE). “Replacing the reactive metals with stable conductors, including conducting polymers, completely changes the requirements of how electronics are manufactured and protected. Their use can pave the way for lower cost and more flexible devices.”

To illustrate the new method, Kippelen and his peers evaluated the polymers’ performance in organic thin-film transistors and OLEDs. They’ve also built a prototype: the first-ever, completely plastic solar cell.

“The polymer modifier reduces the work function in a wide range of conductors, including silver, gold and aluminum,” noted Seth Marder, associate director of COPE and professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “The process is also effective in transparent metal-oxides and graphene.”

COPE is a collaborative effort of Georgia Tech professors in the Colleges of Engineering, Sciences and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. The center is working on the next generation of electronic devices in order to save energy, reduce costs, increase national security and enhance the quality of the environment. Researchers from the groups of Georgia Tech professors Jean-Luc Brédas and Samuel Graham, as well as Princeton University Professor Antoine Kahn, also contributed to the new study.

The research was funded in part through the Center for Interface Science: Solar Electric Materials, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under Award Number DE-SC0001084, by the STC Program MDITR of the National Science Foundation under Agreement No. DMR-0120967, and by the Office of Naval Research (Grant No. N00014-04-1-0120). The content is solely the responsibility of the principal investigators and does not necessarily represent the official views of the DOE, NSF and ONR.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • scott

    When do we get all this new tech for our houses. We have only had 2 choices for a decade.

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