Graphene: Solar Cells of the Future?
A southern California University team has come up with what could be the alternative new breed of economical and flexible solar cells. For some decades now, organic photovoltaic cells (OPV) have been acclaimed as the new solar cell prototypes and extolled for their light weight, flexible substrates, low cost and easy manufacturability. Research is now being done on them.
Features of OPV cell:
The most unique aspect of the OPV cell devise is the transparent conductive electrode. This allows the light to react with the active materials inside and create the electricity. Now graphene/polymer sheets are used to create thick arrays of flexible OPV cells and they are used to convert solar radiation into electricity providing cheap solar power.
New OPV design:
Now a research team under the guidance of Chongwu Zhou, Professor of Electrical Engineering, USC Viterbi School of Engineering has put forward the theory that the graphene – in its form as atom-thick carbon atom sheets and then attached to very flexible polymer sheets with thermo-plastic layer protection will be incorporated into the OPV cells. By chemical vapour deposition, quality graphene can now be produced in sufficient quantities also.
Differences between silicon cells and graphene OPV cells:
The traditional silicon solar cells are more efficient as 14 watts of power will be generated from 1000 watts of sunlight where as only 1.3 watts of power can be generated from a graphene OPV cell. But these OPV cells more than compensate by having more advantages like physical flexibility and costing less.
More economical in the long run:
According to Gomez De Arco, a team member, it may be one day possible to run printing presses with these economically priced OPVs covering extensive areas very much like printing newspapers. In Gomez’ words – “They could be hung as curtains in homes or even made into fabric and be worn as power generating clothing…. imagine people powering their cellular phone or music/video device while jogging in the sun.”
Advantages of OPVs:
The flexibility of OPVs gives these cells additional advantage by being operational after repeated bending unlike the Indium-Tin-Oxide cells. Low cost, conductivity, stability, electrode/organic film compatibility, and easy availability along with flexibility give graphene OPV cell a decidedly added advantage over other solar cells.
The USC team, consisting of Chongwu Zhou, Cody W. Schlenker, Koungmin Rye, Mark E. Thompson, Yi Zhang and Gomez De Arco published a paper about their research in ACS Nano journal and are very much excited about the future potential advantages and uses that are possible with the OPV grapehne cells.