This is fascinating work being conducted at Harvard (not surprisingly). Most people have heard of the Human Genome Project and understand why it is hugely important, but materials researchers have also assembled a database of two million molecules, so that other scientists can access it in order to investigate their potential use in the development of materials for producing organic solar cells. The Harvard initiative is called the Clean Energy Project Database.
So, what exactly is an organic solar cell? It is a cell made of carbon-based materials or small molecules that conduct electricity. Currently, a fairly small number of these molecules are as efficient in energy production as silicon. By opening up a database of millions of molecules, the Harvard researchers hope it will encourage scientists to explore the potential of a relatively vast range of possibilities for organic solar cell production.
The advantage of using organic solar cells is that they are easier to make and cheaper. They also could be used in a simple printing process. In fact, such a printer in Australia has already been used to print small photovoltaic panels in sheets. (This printer also currently costs about $200,000, but that is expected to drop in the future.) Printed cells can be very portable and flexible because they are lightweight and on thin sheets, so they can be rolled up for transportation.
The theoretical possibilities, if materialized, could be life-altering. There are many millions of people around the world who don’t have access to reliable electricity
sources, so acquiring some cheap, portable solar panels could help them
charge their personal devices such as cell phones, laptops, flashlights or even storage batteries for indoor lighting.
‘For all practical intents, there are an infinite number of molecules that chemists can make. By comparison, the number that we have characterized is fairly tiny. In materials science, it takes a graduate student roughly one year to come up with a new molecule and synthesize it,’ explained Harvard research associate Johannes Hachmann. (Source: Harvard.edu)
Don't want to miss a cleantech story? Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.