What are Organic Solar Cells?
Organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells, are the third generation of solar cell technology. Organic cells are very strong absorbers of light, being able to harness larger amounts of sunlight than other solar cells. The future of solar technology is organic power. Even when traditional solar technologies meet their match, organic power continues to offer nearly limitless possibilities thanks to its extraordinary properties.
Organic photovoltaics (OPV) is a rapidly increasing new solar cell technology. Among its advantages can be included its lightweight nature, large area coverage and low-cost of manufacturing. OPV are thin filmed solar cells with the possibility of storing larger amounts of solar energy than their predecessors. This new technology drives the solar energy industry forward, as new R&D makes it possible for increased sustainability.
An organic solar cell or plastic solar cell is a type of polymer solar cell that uses organic electronics, a branch of electronics that deals with conductive organic polymers or small organic molecules, for light absorption and charge transport to produce electricity from sunlight by the photovoltaic effect. Organic photovoltaic cells convert solar energy into electrical energy more efficiently than previous solar cells such as silicon cells found in most common solar panels.
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Advantages of Organic Solar Cell
Organic solar cells have the ability to utilize larger areas than its inorganic counterparts. Containing flexible solar modules, organic cells can be fabricated using roll-to-roll production, a process that is less costly than the conventional manufacturing way. This flexibility property also allows for further durability over its counterparts.
The new breakthrough in solar cell technology means portable electronic devices could soon be re-charged on the move in low light levels and partial shading. The result is an organic solar cell that generates a high voltage sufficient to recharge a lithium-ion battery directly, without the need to connect multiple individual cells in series.
Elements of these high voltage cells perform well in different light conditions, even if in areas with low levels of sunlight, which makes them ideal for consumer electronic devices. So far this technology has only been in the test phase however, thanks to its high success rate the next step is to extend this technology outside the laboratory to make cheap OPV chargers available on a commercial scale. Some advantages of organic solar cells are:
- Low weight and flexibility of the PV modules
- OPV have a Semi Transparent characteristic
- Easy to integrate into other products
- New market opportunities, due to their design features such as flexible solar modules
- Lower manufacturing costs compared to conventional inorganic technologies such as silicon solar cells
- Organic photovoltaic cells can be produced in a continuous process using printing tools
- OPV’s have a low environmental impact and short energy payback times
Disadvantages of Organic Solar Cells
In order for organic solar cells to match and exceed the performance of silicon based solar cells, it is necessary for both donor and acceptor materials in an OPV to have good extinction coefficients (referring to several different measures of the absorption of light in a medium), high stabilities and good film structure.
Although organic solar cells have a higher efficiency than their silicon based counterparts, their operational lifetime is not as long. It is true that while these cells are still in the development phase, various new materials, processing methods and device architectures having been investigated to improve this feature, it is currently their key limitation.
Cost of Organic Solar Cells
In the present day, a small amount of power is generated worldwide by solar cells which convert energy from the sun into electricity, powering households and businesses.
This is because solar power technology is still too expensive for everyone to benefit from. The main material which compose most of today’s solar cells is crystalline silicon, with an efficiency of most common panels of approximately 10 percent.
When taking into consideration the cost of installation, panel support, wiring, and DC to AC converters, the price of solar cells becomes quite costly. Adding to this, the lifespan of a solar of a panel is approximately 30 years, so a new solar installation would be required after.
Organic Solar Cells are the next step in the development of solar energy, making this technology affordable for more people due to the cost reduction of the cells. Even though the organic solar cell technology is still new, the estimated cost of manufacturing for purely organic solar cells will range between £30 and £90/m2.