Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Aug 11

Plastics That Convert Light To Electricity

Posted in Energy Inventions | Photovoltaic Cells | Solar Power

Electric Plastics We all are familiar with the positive impact of alternative energy on our environment. Now researchers are trying to improve upon the existing alternative energy technology. As far as solar energy is concerned they are trying to make solar panels cheap and people friendly. Normally the solar panels are quite bulky and difficult to fit in on existing architecture. Therefore scientists all over the world are focusing on developing organic solar cells. They could be inexpensive and look like thin films.


Although the above concept looks so romantic on paper reality is always different. Researchers are facing many hurdles to acquire a desired result. One major obstruction is to utilize these carbon-based materials to unfailingly form the appropriate structure at the nanoscale (tinier than 2-millionths of an inch). This way the structure would be highly efficient in converting light to electricity. They also want to utilize low-cost plastics that would be able to convert ten percent sunlight that they absorb into usable electricity. Another aspect they are paying attention to is the manufacturing process which should be free of complicated steps.

David Ginger is an associate professor of chemistry at University of Washington. He is heading a research team which is working on a method to make images of tiny bubbles and channels. They would be 10,000 times smaller than a human hair and would be implanted inside plastic solar cells. These bubbles and channels would be created through a baking process known as annealing. It is believed that this process will help in improving the materials’ performance. They are also trying to monitor the amount of electricity produced by each bubble and channel. This way research will be able to pinpoint whether the material under particular condition will produce maximum electricity.

Plastic solar cells are manufactured by the amalgamation of two materials in a thin film. The next logical step is to bake them to improve their performance. This baking will produce bubbles and channels as happens with a cake batter. The importance of the bubbles and channels lies in the effect that how well the cell converts light into electricity and how much of the electric current actually gets to the wires leading out of the cell. Here various permutations and combinations can be tried to arrive at the conclusion that how much heat is applied and for how long to achieve a good output.

By now we know that the exact structure of the bubbles and channels is critical to the solar cell’s performance. But one can’t ignore the combination of baking time, bubble size, channel connectivity and efficiency. Ginger is of the view that the polymer tested is not likely to reach the 10 percent efficiency threshold. But this will not be an exercise in vein. This will pave the path to show which new combinations of materials and at what baking time and temperature could form bubbles and channels in a way that the resulting polymer might meet the standard.

Currently researchers are eying to charge cell phones or mp3 players using plastic solar chargers. These solar cells can be put into a purse or backpack. But they are thinking of graduating to produce electricity on big scale.

  • http://www.dgswilson.com/ Doug Wilson

    You are the people who make things better. Would you put a sign on the door that says “No Military Solicitors” so that people can use it when you get it working.

  • Bob

    I love how solar is advancing in the nano scale. The more we can capture solar energy and efficiently convert it directly to electricity, the better off we become.

  • Bill

    This is rather promising. Up to now I have been kind of disappointed at the performance of solar energy but it is getting better. Personally I have found bio-diesel derived from algae to SOUND much more promising, although it hasn’t really been applied yet.

  • Tom

    Agreed! I think the hidden beauty in photovoltaics is that there are no moving parts and it makes no sound. Apart from the efficiency levels needing a bit of improvement I think it is close to ideal. All we need now are enough wind and wave/tidal power to give us our nighttime electricity, solar hydrogen for our spark engines and algae-biodiesel for our trucks and tractors.

    Thats my dream… the frustrating thing is that all the technology and knowhow is sitting there waiting for the go-ahead. It could all happen so fast if someone of wealth or influence would just bite-the-bullet.

  • Francisco A Roque

    Keep working on these projects and let’s try something ourselves, I can’t wait for someone to resuscitate Tesla’s electric car, so we would not waste a drop of oil again.


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