Nanotechnology Now





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Organic polymers show sunny potential: Rice, Penn State labs lay groundwork for block copolymer solar cells

Researchers at Rice and Pennsylvania State universities have created solar cells based on block copolymers, self-assembling organic materials that arrange themselves into distinct layers.Credit: Verduzco Laboratory/Rice University
Researchers at Rice and Pennsylvania State universities have created solar cells based on block copolymers, self-assembling organic materials that arrange themselves into distinct layers.

Credit: Verduzco Laboratory/Rice University

Abstract:
A new version of solar cells created by laboratories at Rice and Pennsylvania State universities could open the door to research on a new class of solar energy devices.

Organic polymers show sunny potential: Rice, Penn State labs lay groundwork for block copolymer solar cells

Houston, TX | Posted on May 30th, 2013

The photovoltaic devices created in a project led by Rice chemical engineer Rafael Verduzco and Penn State chemical engineer Enrique Gomez are based on block copolymers, self-assembling organic materials that arrange themselves into distinct layers. They easily outperform other cells with polymer compounds as active elements.

The discovery is detailed online in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.

While commercial, silicon-based solar cells turn about 20 percent of sunlight into electricity and experimental units top 25 percent, there's been an undercurrent of research into polymer-based cells that could greatly reduce the cost of solar energy, Verduzco said. The Rice/Penn State cells reach about 3 percent efficiency, but that's surprisingly better than other labs have achieved using polymer compounds.

"You need two components in a solar cell: one to carry (negative) electrons, the other to carry positive charges," Verduzco said. The imbalance between the two prompted by the input of energy - sunlight - creates useful current.

Since the mid-1980s, researchers have experimented with stacking or mixing polymer components with limited success, Verduzco said. Later polymer/fullerene mixtures topped 10 percent efficiency, but the fullerenes - in this case, enhanced C-60 buckyballs - are difficult to work with, he said.

The Rice lab discovered a block copolymer — P3HT-b-PFTBT — that separates into bands that are about 16 nanometers wide. More interesting to the researchers was the polymers' natural tendency to form bands perpendicular to the glass. The copolymer was created in the presence of a glass/indium tin oxide (ITO) top layer at a modest 165 degrees Celsius.

With a layer of aluminum on the other side of the device constructed by the Penn State team, the polymer bands stretched from the top to bottom electrodes and provided a clear path for electrons to flow.

"On paper, block copolymers are excellent candidates for organic solar cells, but no one has been able to get very good photovoltaic performance using block copolymers," Verduzco said. "We didn't give up on the idea of block copolymers because there's really only been a handful of these types of solar cells previously tested. We thought getting good performance using block copolymers was possible if we designed the right materials and fabricated the solar cells under the right conditions."

Mysteries remain, he said. "It's not clear why the copolymer organizes itself perpendicular to the electrodes," he said. "Our hypothesis is that both polymers want to be in contact with the ITO-coated glass. We think that forces this orientation, though we haven't proven it yet."

He said the researchers want to experiment with other block copolymers and learn to control their structures to increase the solar cell's ability to capture photons and turn them into electricity. Once they have achieved higher performance from the cells, the team will look at long-term use.

"We'll focus on performance first, because if we can't get it high enough, there's no reason to address some of the other challenges like stability," Verduzco said. Encapsulating a solar cell to keep air and water from degrading it is easy, he said, but protecting it from ultraviolet degradation over time is hard. "You have to expose it to sunlight. That you can't avoid."

Co-authors of the paper are Rice graduate students Yen-Hao Lin and Kendall Smith; Penn State graduate student Changhe Guo and undergraduate Matthew Witman; Argonne National Laboratory researcher Joseph Strzalka; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory postdoctoral researcher Cheng Wang and staff scientist Alexander Hexemer; and Enrique Gomez, an assistant professor in the Penn State Department of Chemical Engineering. Verduzco is an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

The National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Welch Foundation, the Shell Center for Sustainability and the Louis and Peaches Owen Family Foundation supported the research.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
David Ruth
713-348-6327


Mike Williams
713-348-6728


Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews

Copyright © Rice University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

Read the abstract at:

Verduzco Laboratory:

Best research-cell efficiency chart:

Related News Press

News and information

New technique speeds nanoMRI imaging: Multiplexing technique for nanoscale magnetic resonance imaging developed by researchers in Switzerland cuts normal scan time from two weeks to two days May 28th, 2015

Squeezed quantum cats May 28th, 2015

New chip makes testing for antibiotic-resistant bacteria faster, easier: Researchers at the University of Toronto design diagnostic chip to reduce testing time from days to one hour, allowing doctors to pick the right antibiotic the first time May 28th, 2015

Collaboration could lead to biodegradable computer chips May 28th, 2015

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Collaboration could lead to biodegradable computer chips May 28th, 2015

Nanotechnology identifies brain tumor types through MRI 'virtual biopsy' in animal studies: If results are confirmed in humans, tumor cells could someday be diagnosed by MRI imaging and treated with tumor-specific IV injections; new NIH grant will fund future study May 27th, 2015

Who needs water to assemble DNA? Non-aqueous solvent supports DNA nanotechnology May 27th, 2015

One step closer to a single-molecule device: Columbia Engineering researchers first to create a single-molecule diode -- the ultimate in miniaturization for electronic devices -- with potential for real-world applications May 25th, 2015

Self Assembly

Engineering Phase Changes in Nanoparticle Arrays: Scientists alter attractive and repulsive forces between DNA-linked particles to make dynamic, phase-shifting forms of nanomaterials May 25th, 2015

Scientists Use Nanoscale Building Blocks and DNA 'Glue' to Shape 3D Superlattices: New approach to designing ordered composite materials for possible energy applications April 23rd, 2015

Advances in molecular electronics: Lights on -- molecule on: Researchers from Dresden and Konstanz succeed in light-controlled molecule switching April 20th, 2015

Carnegie Mellon chemists create tiny gold nanoparticles that reflect nature's patterns April 9th, 2015

Discoveries

New technique speeds nanoMRI imaging: Multiplexing technique for nanoscale magnetic resonance imaging developed by researchers in Switzerland cuts normal scan time from two weeks to two days May 28th, 2015

Squeezed quantum cats May 28th, 2015

New chip makes testing for antibiotic-resistant bacteria faster, easier: Researchers at the University of Toronto design diagnostic chip to reduce testing time from days to one hour, allowing doctors to pick the right antibiotic the first time May 28th, 2015

Collaboration could lead to biodegradable computer chips May 28th, 2015

Announcements

New technique speeds nanoMRI imaging: Multiplexing technique for nanoscale magnetic resonance imaging developed by researchers in Switzerland cuts normal scan time from two weeks to two days May 28th, 2015

Squeezed quantum cats May 28th, 2015

New chip makes testing for antibiotic-resistant bacteria faster, easier: Researchers at the University of Toronto design diagnostic chip to reduce testing time from days to one hour, allowing doctors to pick the right antibiotic the first time May 28th, 2015

Collaboration could lead to biodegradable computer chips May 28th, 2015

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers

New technique speeds nanoMRI imaging: Multiplexing technique for nanoscale magnetic resonance imaging developed by researchers in Switzerland cuts normal scan time from two weeks to two days May 28th, 2015

Squeezed quantum cats May 28th, 2015

New chip makes testing for antibiotic-resistant bacteria faster, easier: Researchers at the University of Toronto design diagnostic chip to reduce testing time from days to one hour, allowing doctors to pick the right antibiotic the first time May 28th, 2015

Controlled Release of Anticorrosive Materials in Spot by Nanocarriers May 27th, 2015

Energy

Technology for Tomorrow’s Market Opportunities and Challenges: LetiDays Grenoble Presents the Possibilities: June 24-25 Event Includes Focus on IoT-Augmented Mobility and Leti’s Latest Results on Silicon Technologies, Sensors, Health Applications and Smart Cities May 27th, 2015

Physicists solve quantum tunneling mystery: ANU media release: An international team of scientists studying ultrafast physics have solved a mystery of quantum mechanics, and found that quantum tunneling is an instantaneous process May 27th, 2015

Fine-tuned molecular orientation is key to more efficient solar cells May 26th, 2015

DNA Double Helix Does Double Duty in Assembling Arrays of Nanoparticles: Synthetic pieces of biological molecule form framework and glue for making nanoparticle clusters and arrays May 25th, 2015

Research partnerships

Collaboration could lead to biodegradable computer chips May 28th, 2015

Supercomputer unlocks secrets of plant cells to pave the way for more resilient crops: IBM partners with University of Melbourne and UQ May 21st, 2015

Taking control of light emission: Researchers find a way of tuning light waves by pairing 2 exotic 2-D materials May 20th, 2015

Organic nanoparticles, more lethal to tumors: Carbon-based nanoparticles could be used to sensitize cancerous tumors to proton radiotherapy and induce more focused destruction of cancer cells, a new study shows May 18th, 2015

Solar/Photovoltaic

Fine-tuned molecular orientation is key to more efficient solar cells May 26th, 2015

Efficiency record for black silicon solar cells jumps to 22.1 percent: Aalto University's researchers improved their previous record by over 3 absolute percents in cooperation with Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya May 18th, 2015

Wearables may get boost from boron-infused graphene: Rice U. researchers flex muscle of laser-written microsupercapacitors May 18th, 2015

Random nanowire configurations increase conductivity over heavily ordered configurations May 16th, 2015

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More










ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project