Concept: Organic solar cell
Solar energy is potentially the largest source of renewable energy at our disposal, but significant advances are required to make photovoltaic technologies economically viable and, from a life-cycle perspective, environmentally friendly, and consequently scalable. Cellulose nanomaterials are emerging high-value nanoparticles extracted from plants that are abundant, renewable, and sustainable. Here, we report on the first demonstration of efficient polymer solar cells fabricated on optically transparent cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) substrates. The solar cells fabricated on the CNC substrates display good rectification in the dark and reach a power conversion efficiency of 2.7%. In addition, we demonstrate that these solar cells can be easily separated and recycled into their major components using low-energy processes at room temperature, opening the door for a truly recyclable solar cell technology. Efficient and easily recyclable organic solar cells on CNC substrates are expected to be an attractive technology for sustainable, scalable, and environmentally-friendly energy production.
Organic solar cells have the potential to become a low-cost sustainable energy source. Understanding the photoconversion mechanism is key to the design of efficient organic solar cells. In this review, we discuss the processes involved in the photo-electron conversion mechanism, which may be subdivided into exciton harvesting, exciton transport, exciton dissociation, charge transport and extraction stages. In particular, we focus on the role of energy transfer as described by F¨orster resonance energy transfer (FRET) theory in the photoconversion mechanism. FRET plays a major role in exciton transport, harvesting and dissociation. The spectral absorption range of organic solar cells may be extended using sensitizers that efficiently transfer absorbed energy to the photoactive materials. The limitations of F¨orster theory to accurately calculate energy transfer rates are discussed. Energy transfer is the first step of an efficient two-step exciton dissociation process and may also be used to preferentially transport excitons to the heterointerface, where efficient exciton dissociation may occur. However, FRET also competes with charge transfer at the heterointerface turning it in a potential loss mechanism. An energy cascade comprising both energy transfer and charge transfer may aid in separating charges and is briefly discussed. Considering the extent to which the photo-electron conversion efficiency is governed by energy transfer, optimisation of this process offers the prospect of improved organic photovoltaic performance and thus aids in realising the potential of organic solar cells.
Large area pixelated polymer solar cell design with active encapsulants for down-conversion and redirecting light is demonstrated by K. S. Narayan and Anshuman J. Das on page 2193. The large-area, vacuum-free fabrication is carried out using meltable alloys as cathodes and an architecture which permits channelizing the light back into the device utilizing appropriate fluorescent dye molecules embedded in the encapsulant.
A novel conjugated side-chain polymer (PBDT-TID), based on benzo[1,2-b:4,5-b']dithiophene (BDT) and isoindigo (ID) moieties, was designed and synthesized. The new polymer exhibited excellent microphase separation in active layers. Bulk heterojunction polymer solar cells fabricated from PBDT-TID and PC61BM showed promising power conversion efficiencies of 5.25% and 6.51% using conventional and inverted device structures, respectively.
Power conversion efficiencies in excess of 7 % have been achieved with bulk heterojunction (BHJ)-type organic solar cells using two components: p- and n-doped materials. The energy level and absorption profile of the active layer can be tuned by introduction of an additional component. Careful design of the additional component is required to achieve optimal panchromatic absorption, suitable energy-level offset, balanced electron and hole mobility, and good light-harvesting efficiency. This article reviews the recent progress on ternary organic photovoltaic systems, including polymer/small molecule/functional fullerene, polymer/polymer/functional fullerene, small molecule/small molecule/functional fullerene, polymer/functional fullerene I/functional fullerene II, and polymer/quantum dot or metal/functional fullerene systems.
Performance enhancement of organic photovoltaics using plasmonic nanoparticles has been limited without interparticle plasmon coupling. We demonstrate high performance organic photovoltaics employing gold nanoparticle clusters with controlled morphology as a plasmonic component. Near-field coupling at the interparticle gaps of nanoparticle clusters gives rise to strong enhancement in localized electromagnetic field, which led to the significant improvement of exciton generation and dissociation in the active layer of organic solar cells. A power conversion efficiency of 9.48% is attained by employing gold nanoparticle clusters at the bottom of the organic active layer. This is one of the highest efficiency values reported thus far for the single active layer organic photovoltaics.
A nonfullerene-based polymer solar cell (PSC) which significantly outperforms fullerene-based PSCs with respect to the power-conversion efficiency is demonstrated for the first time. An efficiency >11%, which is among the top values in the PSC field, and excellent thermal stability is obtained using PBDB-T and ITIC as donor and acceptor, respectively.
Although the field of polymer solar cell has seen much progress in device performance in the past few years, several limitations are holding back its further development. For instance, current high-efficiency (>9.0%) cells are restricted to material combinations that are based on limited donor polymers and only one specific fullerene acceptor. Here we report the achievement of high-performance (efficiencies up to 10.8%, fill factors up to 77%) thick-film polymer solar cells for multiple polymer:fullerene combinations via the formation of a near-ideal polymer:fullerene morphology that contains highly crystalline yet reasonably small polymer domains. This morphology is controlled by the temperature-dependent aggregation behaviour of the donor polymers and is insensitive to the choice of fullerenes. The uncovered aggregation and design rules yield three high-efficiency (>10%) donor polymers and will allow further synthetic advances and matching of both the polymer and fullerene materials, potentially leading to significantly improved performance and increased design flexibility.
A sequential-casting ternary method is developed to create stratified bulk heterojunction (BHJ) solar cells, in which the two BHJ layers are spin cast sequentially without the need of adopting a middle electrode and orthogonal solvents. This method is found to be particularly useful for polymers that form a mechanically alloyed morphology due to the high degree of miscibility in the blend.
There has been long-standing debate on how free charges are generated in donor:acceptor blends that are used in organic solar cells, and which are generally comprised of a complex phase morphology, where intermixed and neat phases of the donor and acceptor material co-exist. Here we resolve this question, basing our conclusions on Stark effect spectroscopy data obtained in the absence and presence of externally applied electric fields. Reconciling opposing views found in literature, we unambiguously demonstrate that the fate of photogenerated electron-hole pairs-whether they will dissociate to free charges or geminately recombine-is determined at ultrafast times, despite the fact that their actual spatial separation can be much slower. Our insights are important to further develop rational approaches towards material design and processing of organic solar cells, assisting to realize their purported promise as lead-free, third-generation energy technology that can reach efficiencies over 10%.