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Organic solar cells could be manufactured in a process something like printing or spraying the materials onto a roll of plastic.

A new technique could lead to widespread use of solar power. Researchers at Princeton envision mass-produced rolls of material that converts sunlight to electricity. Princeton electrical engineers have invented a technique for making solar cells that, when combined with other recent advances, could yield a highly economical source of energy. The new photovoltaics are made from "organic" materials, which consist of small carbon-containing molecules, as opposed to the conventional inorganic, silicon-based materials. The materials are ultra-thin and flexible and could be applied to large surfaces.

Said Peter Peumans, a graduate student in the lab of electrical engineering professor Stephen Forrest, "In the end, you would have a sheet of solar cells that you just unroll." Peumans and Forrest co-wrote the paper in collaboration with Soichi Uchida, a researcher visiting Princeton from Nippon Oil Co. The cells also could be made in different colors, making them attractive architectural elements, Peumans said. Or they could be transparent so they could be applied to windows. The cells would serve as tinting, letting half the light through and using the other half to generate power, he said.

"We think we have pathway for using this and other tricks to get to 10 percent reasonably quickly," Forrest said. By comparison, conventional silicon chip-based solar cells are about 24 percent efficient. "Organic solar cells will be cheaper to make, so in the end the cost of a watt of electricity will be lower than that of conventional materials," said Peumans. Source: Princeton University

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November 18, 2019, 11:57 am PDT

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