Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

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

A new way to make microstructured surfaces: Method can produce strong, lightweight materials with specific surface properties July 29th, 2014

Iranian Scientists Use Waste Cotton Fibers to Produce Cellulose Nanoparticles July 29th, 2014

FEI adds Phase Plate Technology and Titan Halo TEM to its Structural Biology Product Portfolio: New solutions provide the high-quality imaging and contrast necessary to analyze the 3D structure of molecules and molecular complexes July 28th, 2014

Production of Toxic Gas Sensor Based on Nanorods July 28th, 2014

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

A new way to make microstructured surfaces: Method can produce strong, lightweight materials with specific surface properties July 29th, 2014

Seeing is bead-lieving: Rice University scientists create model 'bead-spring' chains with tunable properties July 28th, 2014

Stanford team achieves 'holy grail' of battery design: A stable lithium anode - Engineers use carbon nanospheres to protect lithium from the reactive and expansive problems that have restricted its use as an anode July 27th, 2014

New imaging agent provides better picture of the gut July 25th, 2014

Self Assembly

Berkeley Lab researchers create nanoparticle thin films that self-assemble in 1 minute June 9th, 2014

Design of self-assembling protein nanomachines starts to click: A nanocage builds itself from engineered components June 5th, 2014

Molecular self-assembly scales up from nanometers to millimeters June 5th, 2014

Nano world: Where towers construct themselves: How physicists get control on the self-assembly process June 2nd, 2014

Discoveries

A new way to make microstructured surfaces: Method can produce strong, lightweight materials with specific surface properties July 29th, 2014

Iranian Scientists Use Waste Cotton Fibers to Produce Cellulose Nanoparticles July 29th, 2014

Seeing is bead-lieving: Rice University scientists create model 'bead-spring' chains with tunable properties July 28th, 2014

Measuring the Smallest Magnets July 28th, 2014

Announcements

A new way to make microstructured surfaces: Method can produce strong, lightweight materials with specific surface properties July 29th, 2014

Iranian Scientists Use Waste Cotton Fibers to Produce Cellulose Nanoparticles July 29th, 2014

FEI adds Phase Plate Technology and Titan Halo TEM to its Structural Biology Product Portfolio: New solutions provide the high-quality imaging and contrast necessary to analyze the 3D structure of molecules and molecular complexes July 28th, 2014

Production of Toxic Gas Sensor Based on Nanorods July 28th, 2014

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

A new way to make microstructured surfaces: Method can produce strong, lightweight materials with specific surface properties July 29th, 2014

Iranian Scientists Use Waste Cotton Fibers to Produce Cellulose Nanoparticles July 29th, 2014

Seeing is bead-lieving: Rice University scientists create model 'bead-spring' chains with tunable properties July 28th, 2014

Production of Toxic Gas Sensor Based on Nanorods July 28th, 2014

Energy

Oregon chemists eye improved thin films with metal substitution: Solution-based inorganic process could drive more efficient electronics and solar devices July 21st, 2014

Steam from the sun: New spongelike structure converts solar energy into steam July 21st, 2014

3-D nanostructure could benefit nanoelectronics, gas storage: Rice U. researchers predict functional advantages of 3-D boron nitride July 15th, 2014

Nanotechnology that will impact the Security & Defense sectors to be discussed at NanoSD2014 conference July 8th, 2014

Research partnerships

Breakthrough laser experiment reveals liquid-like motion of atoms in an ultra-cold cluster: University of Leicester research team unlocks insights into creation of new nano-materials July 25th, 2014

A*STAR and industry form S$200M semiconductor R&D July 25th, 2014

A Crystal Wedding in the Nanocosmos July 23rd, 2014

Penn Study: Understanding Graphene’s Electrical Properties on an Atomic Level July 22nd, 2014

Solar/Photovoltaic

Steam from the sun: New spongelike structure converts solar energy into steam July 21st, 2014

Making dreams come true: Making graphene from plastic? July 2nd, 2014

Shrinky Dinks close the gap for nanowires July 1st, 2014

New Study Raises Possibility of Production of P-Type Solar Cells July 1st, 2014

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







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE