New insights into energy loss open doors for one up-and-coming solar tech

Written by
Colton Poore, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment
Nov. 28, 2022

Organic solar cells are a promising new technology that has several advantages over the more well-known silicon solar panels, including lighter weight and greater flexibility. However, development of the technology has been sluggish because researchers are still trying to understand the fundamental processes underlying how organic solar cells operate.

Now, engineers at Princeton University and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology have discovered a breakthrough that could reimagine the conventional approach to constructing organic solar cells. This breakthrough was chronicled in the November 18 issue of Joule.

“There was a way that energy loss in organic solar cells was traditionally described and defined. And it turns out that that description was not wholly correct,” said Barry Rand, co-author of the study and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

The researchers discovered that the concept of disorder played an important role in determining the overall energy loss of an organic solar cell. When Rand and his team incorporated disorder into the way they calculated energy loss and tested various devices, they found that the level of disorder played an important role in determining the overall energy loss of an organic solar cell.

After demonstrating that increasing disorder causes energy loss to sharply increase in devices, the researchers were able to make recommendations for materials that minimize disorder and therefore lead to more efficient devices.“ This discovery is another aspect of organic solar cells that we can add to what we already know, which will help us improve their efficiency going forward,” Rand said.

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