Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Plastic Solar Advance

This is another approach on the solar energy problem. By now everyone has figured out that it is desirable to produce a solar cell by printing technology. It is of course possible to do everything crudely in a proof of concept mock up. The hard part is to produce something that solves the manufacturing challenge.

Here they are trying to lay down layers that are bound and communicate properly.

We are overdue for a survey article that explains each and every protocol that is been worked on. It has long been obvious what the limitations were with silica and why it is necessary to work hard on these alternatives. It would be nice to have as clear a picture on the alternatives. It is not really good enough to mention mysterious layers without saying enough to give us a sense of comfort or to address the options available to be studied.

I am sure that the interest is there.

Googling the topic throws up the datum that the protocol relies on zinc oxide in nano sizes. I recall that prior work was thwarted by the difficulty in getting particle sizes small enough to maximize efficiency. Of course, this work is not addressing that issue directly.

University Of Alberta And NINT Researchers Make Solar Energy Breakthrough

by Staff Writers
The University of Alberta and the National Research Council's National Institute (NINT) for Nanotechnology have engineered an approach that is leading to improved performance of plastic solar cells (hybrid organic solar cells).

development of inexpensive, mass-produced plastic solar panels is a goal of intense interest for many of the world's scientists and engineers because of the high cost and shortage of the ultra-high purity silicon and other materials normally required.
Plastic solar cells are made up of layers of different materials, each with a specific function, called a sandwich structure. Jillian Buriak, a professor of chemistry at the U of A, NINT principal investigator and member of the research team, uses a simple analogy to describe the approach:

"Consider a clubhouse sandwich, with many different layers. One layer absorbs the light, another helps to generate the electricity, and others help to draw the electricity out of the device.

Normally, the layers don't stick well, and so the electricity ends up stuck and never gets out, leading to inefficient devices. We are working on the mayonnaise, the mustard, the butter and other 'special sauces' that bring the sandwich together, and make each of the layers work together. That makes a better sandwich, and makes a better solar cell, in our case".

After two years of research, these U of A and NINT scientists have, by only working on one part of the sandwich, seen improvements of about 30 per cent in the efficiency of the working model.

Michael Brett, professor of electrical and computer engineering, NINT principal investigator and member of the research team is optimistic: "our team is so incredibly cross-disciplinary, with people from engineering, physics and chemistry backgrounds all working towards this common goal of cheap manufacturable solar cells. This collaboration is extremely productive because of the great team with such diverse backgrounds, [although] there is still so much more for us to do, which is exciting." This multidisciplinary approach, common at the National Institute for Nanotechnology, brings together the best of the NRC and the University of Alberta.

The team estimates it will be five to seven years before plastic solar panels will be mass produced but Buriak adds that when it happens solar energy will be available to everyone. She says the next generation of solar
technology belongs to plastic.

"Plastic solar cell material will be made cheaply and quickly and in massive quantities by ink jet-like

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