Researchers using Diamond and ISIS have highlighted new manufacturing techniques that could lead to a revolution in renewable energy. A new study published in the Journal Advanced Energy Materials this week (Monday 4 July) shows how an efficient solar cell structure spontaneously forms using very simple and inexpensive manufacturing methods similar to flexible layers of material being deposited over large areas like cling-film.
“Working in tandem with ISIS, we can probe the distribution going down through the film with neutrons, whilst at Diamond we can look for regular internal structures with X-rays using a technique called GI-WAXS. This allows us to better understand the distributions and structures that govern the performance of the films, and the drying mechanisms that lead to these naturally optimised structures. This in turn allows us to design even better devices.”
Dr Paul Staniec, author of the paper and now a Post Doctoral Research Associate on beamline I22
The image to the left shows an example of the Grazing Incidence Wide Angle Scattering (GI-WAXS) data recorded at Diamond (I16) for a PCDTBT:PCBM film. Staniec et al: The Nanoscale Morphology of a PCDTBT:PCBM Photovoltaic Blend. Advanced Energy Materials. July 2011. Volume 1, issue 4. Copyright Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA. Reproduced with permission.
Dr. Robert Dalgliesh, one of the ISIS scientists involved in the work, said, “This work clearly illustrates the importance of the combined use of neutron and X-ray scattering sources such as ISIS and Diamond in solving modern challenges for society. Using neutron beams at ISIS and Diamond’s bright X-rays, we were able to probe the internal structure and properties of the solar cell materials non-destructively. By studying the layers in the materials which convert sunlight into electricity, we are learning how different processing steps change the overall efficiency and affect the overall polymer solar cell performance. ”
“Over the next fifty years society is going to need to supply the growing energy demands of the world’s population without using fossil fuels, and the only renewable energy source that can do this is the Sun”, said Professor Richard Jones of the University of Sheffield. “ In a couple of hours enough energy from sunlight falls on the Earth to satisfy the energy needs of the Earth for a whole year, but we need to be able to harness this on a much bigger scale than we can do now. Cheap and efficient polymer solar cells that can cover huge areas could help move us into a new age of renewable energy.”
The research was funded with a grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The collaboration has just been allocated a new grant to carry out further studies into the structure and function of polymer solar cell materials, as well as examining new materials and innovative processes for high volume manufacture and future commercialisation.
Find out more about work in the UK on photovoltaic devices: http://www.ukopv.org
‘The Nanoscale Morphology of a PCDTBT:PCBM Photovoltaic Blend’
Paul A. Staniec, Andrew J. Parnell, Alan D. F. Dunbar, Hunan Yi, Andrew J. Pearson, Tao Wang, Paul E. Hopkinson, Christy Kinane, Robert M. Dalgliesh, Athene M. Donald, Anthony J. Ryan, Ahmed Iraqi, Richard A. L. Jones, David G. Lidzey.
Advance Energy Materials, 28 April 2011
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