APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Photovoltaic (PV) cells and panels
- PV window and wall coatings
- Polymer transistors
- Thin and flexible material
- Low cost
- Renewable, non-petroleum source material
- Can be solution processed and easily deposited on surfaces
A Berkeley Lab team of scientists has developed efficient polymer solar cells that contain furan, a material that can be manufactured from renewable, plant derived sources. In addition to their potential for producing lower cost solar cells, furan-based photovoltaic polymers are soluble and can be sprayed on to surfaces with a scalable, cost efficient, conductive ink printing process.
The furan polymers tested by Berkeley Lab researchers are potentially 100 times cheaper to produce than silicon with about one-third to one-quarter silicon’s efficiency in converting light to electricity. Furan polymers have a band gap of 1.4 eV, which, while not as narrow as silicon’s 1.1 eV band gap, is well within the range necessary for efficient photovoltaic applications. Spray-on furan polymer photovoltaic materials have great potential for use on windows, walls, and other surfaces that pick up indirect sunlight. They can be fabricated on flexible surfaces and are as thin as 0.1 micron, comparing favorably to heavier silicon photovoltaic devices that are several microns thick.
Semiconductors made from polymers rather than traditional hard materials such as silicon have intrigued researchers looking for ways to lower the cost of photovoltaic materials. Polymer solar cells have previously been fabricated from petroleum-derived thiophene, an organic molecule with a sulfur base. Furan has a similar molecular structure. However, it is oxygen-based and can be produced from plant sugars, a renewable and non-toxic resource. Prior to this research, the use of furan as a semiconducting polymer was unheard of. The Berkeley Lab team has thus developed a low cost, organic polymer semiconductor with the potential to open new markets for cost-effective photovoltaic materials that can be applied to large, irregular, and flexible surfaces.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Bench-scale prototype.
STATUS: Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Woo, C.H., Beaujuge, P.M., Holcombe, T.W., Lee, O.P., Fréchet, J.M.J. “Incorporation of Furan into Low Band-Gap Polymers for Efficient Solar Cells,” Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2010, Volume 132, October 14, 2010.
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REFERENCE NUMBER: IB-2947