This Enhancing Efficiencies in Printed Solar Cells project successfully improved the production of effective and reliable, low-cost printed organic solar cells by controlling the way the organic components in the cell align with each other at a microscopic (molecular) level during the ink drying process.
The laboratory based program has been very effective in developing quality materials as interface modifiers and demonstrating their effectiveness. The partners have developed a series of design guidelines to allow for faster development of interface materials for any developed higher performance materials in the future.
The integration of the printing program has been less than effective, as this relied on organising access to heavily used equipment (and a limited pool of trained operators) often when the equipment was urgently required. This program could be improved by early access to the printers and optimisation of the best active layer materials, then the development of interface modifiers. This would enable rapid optimisation of the use of interface modifiers for an already optimised printing process.
The main expected benefits of organic solar cells are that they are affordable, have environmentally friendly manufacturing processes and can be mass-produced using commercially available printers. By using industrially relevant coating techniques, and the ability to print on a number of substrates (the bottom layer of a solar cell), roofing and building materials, the potential to rapidly develop building integrated organic photovoltaics is enhanced.
One limitation of the technology that researchers are trying to address is the effectiveness of organic solar cells which can be affected by the way they are formed during the deposition (or printing) process.
The Enhancing Efficiencies in Printed Solar Cells project developed methods that change the way molecules are organised in the thin, printed films that make up organic solar cells.
This was achieved by using specifically designed molecules that can be printed with one of the electrode materials and then act as templates to direct the crystallisation of the main active materials. The new organic films were analysed using advanced electron microscopy and X-ray techniques.
Once the best methods were identified, they were translated to large-scale printed solar cells.
This collaboration builds on the expertise in interface, electrodes and microscopic characterisation at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany, and the synthesis, scale-up and printing expertise available at the University of Melbourne, Australia.
One of the significant challenges in printing solar cells is translating the excellent performance of devices assembled in the laboratory to large scale printed modules. This project is important because it addressed issues directly associated with improving the performance of printed organic solar cell modules by controlling the ways molecules organise when printed films dry.
The technology developed by the end of the project has the properties required for successful translation to a large scale printing program. The current program has shown that it is possible to develop interface modifiers that can successfully improve the performance of organic solar cells; however the translation to large scale printing is incomplete. Two key criteria need to be met for translation, 1) the bulk material can be printed successfully, that is translated from the laboratory to large scale synthesis, and 2) an appropriate interface modifier can be developed based on this material.
As better high performance materials are developed in the laboratory, and it is shown that they can be translated to a large scale printing program it is expected that new interface modifier will be targeted to aid in the optimisation of the printing program.
- Name: Dr David Jones, School of Chemistry
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