Institute of Technology researchers have conducted a study
to assess the environmental advantages and disadvantages of organic
solar cells as well as the amount of energy required to make
energy is seen as a potential alternative to petroleum for
energy production, but solar-cell technology is expensive to mass
produce and the total energy required to make it is high. Also, there
is not enough information on what effect solar energy has on the
environment. But now, Annick Anctil, a fourth-year doctoral candidate
in RIT's doctoral program in sustainability and lead researcher on
the study, along with Brian Landi, assistant professor of chemical
engineering at RIT and faculty advisor on the study, and their
research team have performed one of the first life-cycle evaluation's
of organic solar cells.
problem with previous assessment's was that they didn't provide a
component-by-component breakdown of the materials needed in an
organic solar cell or what the total energy payback of these cell's
are. Through the study conducted by Anctil, the environmental impact
of the fabrication, material collection, mass production and use of
organic solar cells as well as the total energy use was
calculated. What they found is that the total
energy required to make these products, or the embodied
energy, is less for organic solar cells than traditional inorganic
solar cells are flexible and lightweight, and they have the promise
of low-cost solution processing, which can have advantages for
manufacturing over previous-generation technologies that primarily
use inorganic semiconductor materials," said Anctil. "However,
previous assessments of the energy and environmental impact of the
technology have been incomplete and a broader analysis is needed to
better evaluate the overall effect of production and use."
study also found that the energy produced from solar cells versus the
energy needed to manufacture it was lower compared to inorganic
cells. But the team added that continuous studies to verify the
cell's stability are "still warranted."
data produced will help designers and potential manufacturers better
assess how to use and improve the technology and analyze its
feasibility versus other solar and alternative-energy
technologies," said Landi.
Landi, and the team hope to analyze the environmental impact of solar
cells further with more life-cycle assessments of varied types of
solar cell technology. The team presented their study at
the Institute for
Electrical and Electronics Engineers 2010 Photovoltaic Specialists
quote: The study also found that the energy produced from solar cells versus the energy needed to manufacture it was lower compared to inorganic cells. But the team added that continuous studies to verify the cell's stability are "still warranted."
quote: The team found that when compared to inorganic cells, the energy payback time for organic solar cells was lower.