Cheaper and more efficient solar cells are within reach thanks to new research that has deepened our understanding of fullerene, a primary but expensive component of organic solar cells. The new research has clarified a great deal about how they function, and will help in the development of cheaper, better replacements for them.
While organic solar cells have changed and improved a lot since their introduction about 20 years ago, there are limiting factors to them that haven’t been improved since they were invented — the fullerene component is one of them.
But now, thanks to the new research from the University of Warwick, an important property of fullerenes, “namely the availability of additional electron accepting states, which could be replicated to create a new class of ‘fullerene mimics’,” has been discovered.
This previously unknown property is believed by the researchers to be the reason that previous attempts at substituting for fullerene have failed. Fullerene’s ability to accept electrons in a variety of different excited states improves the speed and efficiency of electron capture and the charge separation process.
“The solar cell industry has been searching for an alternative to fullerenes for some time as they have many drawbacks as electronic acceptors, including a very limited light adsorption and a high cost. Also, going beyond fullerene derivatives would increase the possible blends that can be considered for organic solar cells,” a press release posted on Green Building Elements notes.
“However the Warwick scientists have shown that a new class of molecular acceptors with this electronic characteristic can be designed relatively easily, providing a route towards replacing fullerene derivatives in solar cells.”
Professor Troisi says: “Finding a replacement to fullerene has eluded the scientific community and the photovoltaics industry for the best part of two decades. By pinpointing this particular way in which fullerene behaves, we believe we have found a key which may unlock the door to new replacements for this material. Using this knowledge, we are now collaborating with experimentalists at University of Warwick to actively develop fullerene substitutes.”
A patent application has been filed and the scientists are keen to work with commercial partners to bring this technology to market.
The new research is described in a study published in the journal Advanced Materials.
Source: Green Building Elements
Image Credits: Copyright Fraunhofer ISE