Published on January 26th, 2013 | by James Ayre


Organic Solar Cells Receiving Big Boost In Efficiency Thanks To ‘Evolution-Inspired’ Algorithm

January 26th, 2013 by  

In a potentially breakthrough discovery, researchers at Northwestern University have designed a new type of organic solar cell that will very likely lead to much higher efficiency and cheaper solar power.


The new cell design is based around a new geometrical pattern to be used in the ‘scattering layer’ of a solar cell, which works to keep the light trapped in the cell for longer.

The specific geometrical pattern was obtained by using a mathematical search algorithm modeled on natural evolution to identify the optimal design “for capturing and holding light in thin-cell organic solar cells.”

“The resulting design exhibited a three-fold increase over the Yablonovitch Limit, a thermodynamic limit developed in the 1980s that statistically describes how long a photon can be trapped in a semiconductor.”

According to the researchers, the new design will greatly increase the efficiency of organic solar cells.

It’s currently planned for solar cells, with the pattern in question to be fabricated with partners at Argonne National Laboratory.

Source: Northwestern University
Image Credits: Northwestern University

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Van

    organic solar cell don’t think it could stand up to the elements .

    • Steve

      you know nothing

      • Van

        How long has organic solar cell been on the market? why only Poly and Mono? were is the organic PV for sale?

        • With that logic, we should try nothing new because it hasn’t been proven.

          • Van

            That right, it has to be proven before any one will buy it, that called a lemon.

        • Tracy

          Organic PV is still expensive.

    • Hans

      I think you are mislead by the word “organic”. It does not mean that the solar cell is made of plant materials. Organic solar cells use polymers which are stable over a very long period. Organic solar cells have the potential to be produced dirt cheap, for example they could be printed with an adapted inktjet printer, but have a low efficiency. Until now they have only been used for niche applications, like a power source for mobile electronics, where the power to weight ratio is the most important metric.

      Another problem most “alternative” solar cell types face is that they are aiming at a moving target. The price of conventional (poly)crystalline silicon solar cells have dropped dramatically the last ten years. Alternative solar cell types must at the same time overcome their technical hurdles and keep up with the price decrease. Not an easy task!

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