Measuring Purity, Size of Organic Solar Cells Ups Efficiency 42 Percent
January 8, 2013 3:00 PM
By finding out how pure and large the acceptor domain is and what the interface of the donor domain looks like, efficiency can be increased
Berkeley Lab scientists have measured various aspects of an
organic solar cell
for the first time, successfully increasing efficiency with this knowledge.
The study, which was conducted by an international team of scientists at Berkeley Lab and led by Harald Ade, is the first to successfully map the size and purity of domains in organic solar cells to increase their performance.
For photovoltaic devices to compete with fossil fuels for energy collection, they must convert sunlight to energy at a very efficient level. Solar cell conversion
depends on excitons
, which are electron pairs that are energized by sunlight. These excitons must get to the interface of the donor and acceptor domains as quickly as possible to avoid losing energy as heat.
The efficiency of
polymer-based organic photovoltaic cells
depends on the purity of the donor and acceptor domains. So by finding out how pure and large the acceptor domain is and what the interface of the donor domain looks like, efficiency can be increased.
To do this, the researchers used ALS beamlines 18.104.22.168, a Resonant Soft X-ray Scattering (R-SoXS) facility; 7.3.3, a Small- and Wide-Angle X-Ray Scattering (SAXS/WAXS/) end-station, and 5.3.2, an end-station for Scanning Transmission X-Ray Microscopy (STXM) at Berkeley Lab.
"The combination of these three ALS beamlines enabled us to obtain comprehensive pictures of polymer-based organic photovoltaic film morphology from the nano- to the meso-scales," said Brian Collins, the paper's co-author. "Until now, this information has been unattainable."
Using the ALS beamlines, the team studied the polymer/fullerence blend PTB7:PC71BM in thin films made from chlorobenzene solution. It did this with and without the addition of the solvent diiodooctane, and the films were composed of droplets in where the dominant acceptor domain size without the additive was about 177 nanometers.
Adding the solvent reduced the acceptor domain size down to about 34 nanometers while maintaining the film's composition and crystallinity.
The end result was an efficiency gain of 42 percent.
"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings
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