The FlexTech Alliance, focused on developing the electronic display and the flexible, printed electronics industry supply chain, have announced the award of a $450,000 contract to Solarmer Energy, Inc. to design and synthesize high efficiency donor polymer materials for use in Organic Photovoltaics (OPVs).
Technology developments such as this support improved renewable energy resources and is a focus worldwide due to environmental, economic & national security concerns. Potential applications for Solarmer's new photovoltaic technology are in portable electronics, building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), and smart fabrics.
"The current state of the art efficiency for OPVs is ~6.8% for lab scale cells and 3.9% module efficiency for 6 x 6 square inch modules,"revealed Gang Li, vice president of technology development for Solarmer Energy. "We plan to demonstrate high performance OPVs with efficiency up to 8% for lab scale cells, and up to 6% efficiency for 6 x 6 square inch solar panels, an over 30% improvement."
OPVs have many advantages over most other solar cell technologies, including broader color range and tunability, better performance in low intensity and indirect light, low raw material costs and consumption, high materials utilization, light weight, ease of manufacturing through high-throughput printing and coating processes, non-toxic materials used in manufacturing, easy scalability, and very low initial capital investment.
"Although the efficiency of OPVs is low compared to other solar cells, Solarmer's development work will enable the industry to address this challenge in order to deliver the necessary higher efficiency devices," explained Mike Idacavage, Principal Research Fellow at Cytec Industries Inc. and a member of FlexTech's Technical Council. "The technical approach for this project builds on a design to synthesize new active layer materials that can be used in polymer solar cells. This new generation of active materials is targeted to deliver improved key properties, such as a low band gap, appropriate molecular energy levels, good mobility, and excellent processability."
Solarmer, as a developer of transparent, flexible plastic solar panels, is opening the door for a wide range of new application areas in renewable energy, which are not currently addressable with conventional silicon solar panel technology.
The FlexTech Alliance program is a collaborative effort of private industry and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, located in Adelphi, MD.