Nav: Home

Welcome indoors, solar cells

September 16, 2019

Swedish and Chinese scientists have developed organic solar cells optimised to convert ambient indoor light to electricity. The power they produce is low, but is probably enough to feed the millions of products that the internet of things will bring online.

As the internet of things expands, it is expected that we will need to have millions of products online, both in public spaces and in homes. Many of these will be the multitude of sensors to detect and measure moisture, particle concentrations, temperature and other parameters. For this reason, the demand for small and cheap sources of renewable energy is increasing rapidly, in order to reduce the need for frequent and expensive battery replacements.

This is where organic solar cells come in. Not only are they flexible, cheap to manufacture and suitable for manufacture as large surfaces in a printing press, they have one further advantage: the light-absorbing layer consists of a mixture of donor and acceptor materials, which gives considerable flexibility in tuning the solar cells such that they are optimised for different spectra - for light of different wavelengths.

Researchers in Beijing, China, led by Jianhui Hou, and Linköping, Sweden, led by Feng Gao, have now together developed a new combination of donor and acceptor materials, with a carefully determined composition, to be used as the active layer in an organic solar cell. The combination absorbs exactly the wavelengths of light that surround us in our living rooms, at the library and in the supermarket.

The researchers describe two variants of an organic solar cell in an article in Nature Energy, where one variant has an area of 1 cm2 and the other 4 cm2. The smaller solar cell was exposed to ambient light at an intensity of 1000 lux, and the researchers observed that as much as 26.1% of the energy of the light was converted to electricity. The organic solar cell delivered a high voltage of above 1 V for more than 1000 hours in ambient light that varied between 200 and 1000 lux. The larger solar cell still maintained an energy efficiency of 23%.

"This work indicates great promise for organic solar cells to be widely used in our daily life for powering the internet of things", says Feng Gao, senior lecturer in the Division of Biomolecular and Organic Electronics at Linköping University.

"We are confident that the efficiency of organic solar cells will be further improved for ambient light applications in coming years, because there is still a large room for optimization of the materials used in this work", Jianhui Hou, professor at the Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, underlines.

The result is a further advance in research within the field of organic solar cells. In the summer of 2018, for example, the scientists, together with colleagues from a number of other universities, published rules for the construction of efficient organic solar cells (see the link given below). The article collected 25 researchers from seven universities, and was published in Nature Materials. The research was led by Feng Gao. These rules have proven to be useful along the complete pathway to efficient solar cell for indoor use.

Spin off company

The Biomolecular and Organic Electronics research group at Linköping University, under the leadership of Olle Inganäs (now professor emeritus), has been for many years a world-leader in the field of organic solar cells. A few years ago, Olle Inganäs and his colleague Jonas Bergqvist, who is co-author of the articles in Nature Materials and Nature Energy, founded, and are now co-owners of a company, which focusses on commercialising solar cells for indoor use.
-end-
Wide-gap non-fullerene acceptor enabling high-performance organic photovoltaic cells for indoor applications, Yong Cui, Yuming Wang, Jonas Bergqvist, Huifeng Yao, Ye Xu, Bowei Gao, Chenyi Yang, Shaoqing Zhang, Olle Ingana?s, Feng Gao and Jianhui Hou, Nature Energy 2019. DOI 10.1038/s41560-019-0448-5

Contact: Feng Gao, feng.gao@liu.se, +46 13 286882

Linköping University

Related Solar Cells Articles:

Perovskite solar cells get an upgrade
Rice University materials scientists find inorganic compounds quench defects in perovskite-based solar cells and expand their tolerance of light, humidity and heat.
Can solar technology kill cancer cells?
Michigan State University scientists have revealed a new way to detect and attack cancer cells using technology traditionally reserved for solar power.
Solar cells with new interfaces
Scientists from NUST MISIS (Russia) and University of Rome Tor Vergata found out that a microscopic quantity of two-dimensional titanium carbide called MXene significantly improves collection of electrical charges in a perovskite solar cell, increasing the final efficiency above 20%.
Welcome indoors, solar cells
Swedish and Chinese scientists have developed organic solar cells optimised to convert ambient indoor light to electricity.
Mapping the energetic landscape of solar cells
A new spectroscopic method now makes it possible to measure and visualize the energetic landscape inside solar cells based on organic materials.
Solar energy becomes biofuel without solar cells
Soon we will be able to replace fossil fuels with a carbon-neutral product created from solar energy, carbon dioxide and water.
A good first step toward nontoxic solar cells
A team of engineers at Washington University in St. Louis has found what they believe is a more stable, less toxic semiconductor for solar applications, using a novel double mineral discovered through data analytics and quantum-mechanical calculations.
Organic solar cells will last 10 years in space
Scientists from the Skoltech Center for Energy Science and Technology, the Institute for Problems of Chemical Physics of RAS, and the Department of Chemistry of MSU presented solar cells based on conjugated polymers and fullerene derivatives, that demonstrated record-high radiation stability and withstand gamma radiation of >6,000 Gy raising hopes for their stable operation on the near-earth orbit during 10 years or even longer.
Next-gen solar cells spin in new direction
A nanomaterial made from phosphorus, known as phosphorene, is shaping up as a key ingredient for more sustainable and efficient next-generation perovskite solar cells.
Caffeine gives solar cells an energy boost
Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Solargiga Energy in China have discovered that caffeine can help make a promising alternative to traditional solar cells more efficient at converting light to electricity.
More Solar Cells News and Solar Cells Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab