High stability and high efficiency printable photovoltaics (OPV) for large-scale energy production

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Physics


The depletion of oil reserves, spiralling fuel costs, concerns about the security of global energy supplies, and belated worldwide recognition of fossil-fuel induced climate change have sparked an urgent and unprecedented demand for sustainable energy sources. Amongst all of these sources solar photovoltaic (PV) energy stands out as the only one with sufficient theoretical capacity to meet global electricity needs, but high costs of silicon based PV prohibit widespread take-up. In this programme, we focus on the development of organic photovoltaics (OPV) as a low cost technology with the potential to displace conventional power sources. The proposed programme links Imperial College London with four leading Chinese institutions, building on ICL's strengths in the physics and application of molecular electronic materials and devices and on our partners' strengths in speciality materials development and scale-up. A collaborative programme between the UK and China in this area is particularly timely, given the pressing need for alternative power sources that are capable of meeting the rapid development rate and large energy demand of China. Our proposal focuses on solution-processable organic molecules and polymers which share many of the chemical, structural and rheological properties of the inks used in conventional printing and which are amenable to large-scale production through the existing printing and coating industries. Although the project is focused on fundamental research in enhancing the efficiency and lifetime of OPV devices, the technology developed in this project will be compatible with high throughput manufacturing processes for large-scale production. In addition, the programme stands to benefit from the capabilities in China for transferring technological developments into local production. Solution processable OPV devices are typically based on the combination of an electron donor material (usually a conjugated polymer) and an electron acceptor (typically a fullerene derivative) in a bulk heterojunction structure. Absorbed photons of light create excitons which dissociate at the donor/acceptor interface to yield separated charges. The composite film is sandwiched between two different electrodes which drive photocurrent generation through the asymmetry in their electron affinities. The power conversion efficiency of OPV devices currently stands at 5%, and increases in both efficiency and lifetime are required to stimulate commercialization. Device models indicate that power conversion efficiencies of 8 % or more are available with polymer materials possessing sufficiently high oxidation potential and electrode materials with higher work function than those currently available. In this proposal, new polymer and electrode materials will be developed which possess the required properties for higher efficiency, new material which offer higher device stability will be designed and evaluated, and processing techniques compatible with large scale, high volume production will be developed. The programme brings together the expertise of the ICL team in device design, fabrication, characterisation and processing with the expertise of four leading Chinese institutions in synthesis of specialized organic semiconductors and their application in light emitting devices. Application of materials and device designs to light emission will also be investigated where appropriate, in order to explore the potential for energy savings in the lighting market.


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Leem DS (2011) Efficient organic solar cells with solution-processed silver nanowire electrodes. in Advanced materials (Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

Description Developed understanding of limits to OPV efficiency based on selection of fullerene electron acceptor type.

Established control over charge recombination through characterisation and control of polymer:fullerene blend microstructure.

Developed and tested a range of scaleable electrode materials with potential to replace indium tin oxide including Ag Nanowires, Vapour Phase Polymerised PEDOT, Doped Carbon Nanotubes, Reduced Graphene Oxide. ITO is an expensive electrode material and suffers from micro cracking on flexible substrates.

Developed gravure printing processes and stamp transfer printing processes for the fabrication of OPV solar cells using high throughput, low energy and capital cost methods.

Characterised the performance of novel interlayer materials for use in stable OPV cells with moderate work function cathode metals.

Developed collaborative interactions with researchers in China at CIAC (Changchun), SCUT (Guangzhou), ECUST (Shanghai) and BJTU (Beijing). These have led to a number of subsequent international collaborations e.g. (i) the establishment of a tripartite research workshop series between CIAC, Imperial College and Hong Kong Baptist University - the fourth meeting will be held in London in May 2016. (ii) the establishment of a growing research collaboration with Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunication (Dr Ruidong Xia and colleagues) and NanjingTech (Professor Wei Huang and colleagues).
Exploitation Route Solar Press Ltd worked closely with the project team to develop expertise in printed OPV. Collaborations were also established with CSEM Brazil and other industrial partners. CSEM has spun out Sunew to commercialise slot-dye coated OPV solar cells: http://sunew.com.br/en/

Molecular Vision took forward the development of medical diagnostic devices using organic photodetectors and light emitting diodes coupled with lateral flow structures. A joint venture partnership was established with Sumitomo Chemicals for this development (https://www.sumitomo-chem.co.jp/english/newsreleases/docs/20160418e.pdf).
Sectors Chemicals,Energy,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description Supporting the development of medical diagnostic devices and organic solar cells.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Energy,Healthcare
Impact Types Economic