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Posted: February 10, 2009

Research Shows Promise for Organic Photovoltaic Solar Cells as Alternative Energy Source

(Nanowerk News) Luna Innovations Incorporated announces the solar cell research of scientists Dr. Claudia Cardona and Dr. Martin Drees has been published in the prestigious journal Nature Materials. The paper titled (Endohedral fullerenes for organic photovoltaic devices) presents a unique approach to enhance flexible, plastic solar cells, also known as organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells, by modifying the acceptor material rather than the donor material.
The paper, which is co-authored by researchers from Georgetown University, University of California at Santa Barbara, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany, describes how the efficiency improvement was achieved through the use of Luna’s carbon nanomaterials.
“Organic solar cells offer the potential for clean, renewable energy at an affordable price,” said Kent Murphy, Chairman and CEO of Luna Innovations. “These exciting energy harvesting devices can change the way we convert sunlight to electricity. Because they are flexible and easy to handle, they have potential for use in mobile communication devices, consumer electronics, fabrics, building materials, and more. An improvement in efficiency through the use of a novel acceptor molecule is unique to the industry and could enable solar cell manufacturers to increase performance and reduce costs.”
Organic solar cells are made out of plastic-like polymers that serve as electron donors and are combined with fullerene nanomaterials, which serve as electron acceptors. Organic solar cells weigh less and are cheaper to manufacture compared to conventional inorganic silicon-based solar cells, which are presently favored by the solar industry. An existing disadvantage of organic solar cells is the efficiency at which they convert sunlight to electricity. Luna’s solar cells use patented carbon nanomaterials to capture more energy in the photovoltaic process, which increases the organic solar cell efficiency.
“Our research demonstrates an entirely new approach of enhancing OPV device performance by using improved acceptor materials, and expands an area of OPV research that has remained relatively stagnant over the last decade,” said Dr. Drees. “Luna’s novel acceptor materials operate at high conversion efficiencies and are an excellent complement to the fast growing semi-conductive-polymer field. This demonstration is a significant advancement towards making practical organic solar cell devices.”
This paper is an example of Luna’s work in materials that could produce alternative energy forms. The company is focusing on integrating its carbon nanomaterial technology into the products of solar cell manufacturers making commercially viable products. Luna’s nanomaterials have been independently verified at NREL as setting a new record for efficiency of the commercially available P3HT organic solar cell polymer. Luna continues its work to further optimize organic solar cell performance through government-funded technology development programs.
Source: Luna Innovations (press release)
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