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

Iran to Hold 3rd Int'l Engineering Materials, Metallurgy Conference October 25th, 2014

Haydale Secures Exclusive Development and Supply Agreement with Tantec A/S: New reactors to be built and commissioned by Tantec A/S represent another step forward towards the commercialisation of graphene October 24th, 2014

QuantumWise guides the semiconductor industry towards the atomic scale October 24th, 2014

SUNY Polytechnic Institute Invites the Public to Attend its Popular Statewide 'NANOvember' Series of Outreach and Educational Events October 23rd, 2014

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Novel Rocket Design Flight Tested: New Rocket Propellant and Motor Design Offers High Performance and Safety October 23rd, 2014

Strengthening thin-film bonds with ultrafast data collection October 23rd, 2014

Brookhaven Lab Launches Computational Science Initiative:Leveraging computational science expertise and investments across the Laboratory to tackle "big data" challenges October 22nd, 2014

Bipolar Disorder Discovery at the Nano Level: Tiny structures found in brain synapses help scientists better understand disorder October 22nd, 2014

Self Assembly

NYU Researchers Break Nano Barrier to Engineer the First Protein Microfiber October 23rd, 2014

NIST offers electronics industry 2 ways to snoop on self-organizing molecules October 22nd, 2014

‘Designer’ nanodevice could improve treatment options for cancer sufferers October 22nd, 2014

Crystallizing the DNA nanotechnology dream: Scientists have designed the first large DNA crystals with precisely prescribed depths and complex 3D features, which could create revolutionary nanodevices October 20th, 2014

Discoveries

QuantumWise guides the semiconductor industry towards the atomic scale October 24th, 2014

Iranian, Malaysian Scientists Study Nanophotocatalysts for Water Purification October 23rd, 2014

Nanoparticle technology triples the production of biogas October 23rd, 2014

Strengthening thin-film bonds with ultrafast data collection October 23rd, 2014

Announcements

Iran to Hold 3rd Int'l Engineering Materials, Metallurgy Conference October 25th, 2014

Haydale Secures Exclusive Development and Supply Agreement with Tantec A/S: New reactors to be built and commissioned by Tantec A/S represent another step forward towards the commercialisation of graphene October 24th, 2014

QuantumWise guides the semiconductor industry towards the atomic scale October 24th, 2014

Strengthening thin-film bonds with ultrafast data collection October 23rd, 2014

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

NYU Researchers Break Nano Barrier to Engineer the First Protein Microfiber October 23rd, 2014

Iranian Scientists Apply Nanotechnology to Produce Surgery Suture October 23rd, 2014

Iranian, Malaysian Scientists Study Nanophotocatalysts for Water Purification October 23rd, 2014

Strengthening thin-film bonds with ultrafast data collection October 23rd, 2014

Energy

Nanoparticle technology triples the production of biogas October 23rd, 2014

Advancing thin film research with nanostructured AZO: Innovnano’s unique and cost-effective AZO sputtering targets for the production of transparent conducting oxides October 23rd, 2014

Researchers patent a nanofluid that improves heat conductivity October 22nd, 2014

Could I squeeze by you? Ames Laboratory scientists model molecular movement within narrow channels of mesoporous nanoparticles October 21st, 2014

Research partnerships

NYU Researchers Break Nano Barrier to Engineer the First Protein Microfiber October 23rd, 2014

Nanoparticle technology triples the production of biogas October 23rd, 2014

RF Heating of Magnetic Nanoparticles Improves the Thawing of Cryopreserved Biomaterials October 23rd, 2014

Brookhaven Lab Launches Computational Science Initiative:Leveraging computational science expertise and investments across the Laboratory to tackle "big data" challenges October 22nd, 2014

Solar/Photovoltaic

Advancing thin film research with nanostructured AZO: Innovnano’s unique and cost-effective AZO sputtering targets for the production of transparent conducting oxides October 23rd, 2014

Magnetic mirrors enable new technologies by reflecting light in uncanny ways October 16th, 2014

Dyesol Signs Letter of Intent with Tata Steel October 13th, 2014

DNA nano-foundries cast custom-shaped metal nanoparticles: DNA's programmable assembly is leveraged to form precise 3D nanomaterials for disease detection, environmental testing, electronics and beyond October 10th, 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