What are organic solar cells?

An organic solar cell uses organic electronic materials to convert sunlight to electricity through the photovoltaic effect. Organic materials simply means that they contain the element carbon whereas most commercially available solar cells do not contain carbon.

Organic solar cells offer material flexibility, the ability to mass produce, and a potentially lower manufacturing cost upon reaching full commercial scale. Today they are generally still in the research and development stage, however. Although their efficiencies in the laboratory have been increasing rapidly, more work needs to be done before they can be commercialized.

The photoconversion process in organic cells is different from that in conventional inorganic cells. In inorganic solar cells, the photon directly produces free electron-electron hole pair. In organic cells, the excited electron is bound to the electron hole through electrostatic interaction. This electric attraction requires additional steps to free the electron and reduces the quantum efficiency of organic cells compared to inorganic ones.

In addition to improving the efficiency of organic solar cells, researchers also need to find ways to make them more durable with a longer lifespan. With modest improvements in these areas, organic cells could eventually become a widely adopted solar technology.

Licensed Photo by Jack Dempsey