UCLA Researchers Improve High-Efficiency Solar Cells

Poly Solar Cell
Poly Solar Cell

Researchers from UCLA have discovered some key tenets for developing better, high-efficiency solar cells than what we presently have available.

Solar cells are used for storing the suns natural energy. Solar cells provide a much more eco-friendly alternative to powering our resources than common electric energy and do so with considerably less carbon emissions. The issue that has plagued researchers is in developing solar cells capable of holding large amounts of energy, for long durations of time, has been almost impossible to do in an economic enough fashion.

The team of Researchers set to work specifically with polymer solar cells to find ways to extend the solar cells absorption capabilities which would broaden the polymer solar cells scope of use to meet the high demands of todays appliances.

While polymer solar cells have been in existence for some time now, they had not yet been able to provide the amount of energy storage capacity scientists are looking for. Currently silicon cells are most often used for efficient energy conversion. In the last few years, a new hopeful, perovskite cells, have also shown great promise due to their overall efficiency, however, they are still being studied. The researchers chose polymer cells due to the cells being light and inexpensive to manufacture.

The team of UCLA researchers, led by UCLA Professor of Engineering Yang Yang set out to improve this; in terms of the polymer solar cell’s overall efficiency, flexibility and cost-effectiveness. And they were successful. The researchers announced that by blending different pairs of polymers (synthetic plastics) it enabled devices to absorb more light from a larger area of the solar spectrum. From this they identified the necessary criteria by which high-efficiency solar cells could be produced.

In past studies, scientists had attempted to combine polymer structures in an effort to expand the absorption landscape but they were unsuccessful. The UCLA team demonstrated why and how to avoid this issue in the future. Mr. Yang stated that the key was to carefully select polymers with molecular structures that had proved to be compatible with each other.  By using different combinations of polymers and device architectures, the team determined which blends actually improved the cells’ efficiency and which were not compatible and would not improve efficiency.

This discovery will assist researchers in development of solar cells with greater overall absorption and cell efficiency. With the develop of high-efficiency polymer cells, scientists can begin to truly tap the resources the sun has to offer us.

To learn more about this topic, visit the UCLA news release or read more about it here where the researchers recently published the study in Nature Photonics.


Image: 4inch poly solar cellCC BY-SA 3.0  , GFDL


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