Researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Cambridge discovered a technology that can revolutionize solar cells, which can lead to more affordable solar power installations in the future. Their research shows that through simple and inexpensive manufacturing methods, solar cells can be produced.
They used flexible layers of materials and placed them on large areas of cling-film. Their research is published in the journal called Advanced Energy Materials. This could lead to new solar cell manufacturing methods.
The researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Cambridge utilized the ISIS Neutron and Diamond Light Source at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire. They used plastic solar cells, which is less expensive than the typical silicon solar cells. This type of solar cell can be produced in large amounts. The research shows that when the molecules in the solution are spread on a surface, the different molecules separate to the top and bottom of the layer. This maximizes the effectiveness of the solar cell.
Doctor Andrew Parnell of the University of Sheffield said that their goal is to study how ultra-cheap solar energy panels that can be used for residential and industrial systems can be made on a large scale. They are looking for methods that can be alternatives to the expensive and complex fabrication methods to create a semiconductor.
They used high volume printing to create nano-scale films of solar cells that are thinner than the width of human hair. The films can be used to make a cost-effective plastic solar cell that is portable and lightweight.
According to Doctor Robert Dalgliesh, one of the ISIS scientists, the research illustrates how X-ray and neutron can be used in modern applications. The researchers managed to observe the internal structure and properties of the solar cell materials without breaking them apart.
They observed the layers in the materials that convert sunlight into energy. They learned the different steps involved that can affect the efficiency and performance of the polymer solar cell. It is important to find cheap solutions to solar power as the world wants to decrease its dependency on fossil fuels.
Professor Richard Jones of the University of Sheffield said that a couple of hours’ worth of sunlight is enough energy to satisfy the requirements of the planet but it is humans’ job to find a way to harness it on a much larger scale than the present methods we use. He added that cheap and efficient polymer solar cells can cover a large amount of area, which can help foster a new age of solar energy.