Structure-Property Relationships: Enabling a faster Commercialisation of Organic Solar Cells

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics

Abstract

The first electronic devices using organic semiconductors have just entered the market: many displays of mobile phones consist of organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). However, these OLED-displays are considered only the first wave of organic electronic (OE) products, with organic solar cells and organic lighting expected to follow soon. Organic solar cells are currently a very active field of research, because they have the potential to become a very cheap, large area, and flexible photovoltaic technology. They furthermore can have unique properties like custom-made shapes, semi-transparency and different colours, considerably expanding the potential market to areas where current technologies are struggling. Records for conversion efficiencies have reached values above 10% and lifetimes exceeding 10 years in the laboratory, i.e. passing important milestones that are often considered as minimum requirement to become viable for commercial applications.
However, one major challenge for industry trying to commercialise this technology is: for any kind of device using thin organic semiconducting layers, its electrical and optical properties strongly depend on molecular arrangement in the organic layer, in particular for organic solar cells. To a large extent, the interdependencies between molecular structure, processing, morphology in the thin organic film, and the device properties is a black box. The current approach for improving solar cells is to make more new molecules and to run an extensive process optimisation and device testing, but there are nearly unlimited options of organic chemistry and many degrees of freedom in process parameters. This nearly trial-and-error process is consuming time and money, as well as carrying the risk that the best organic semiconductors are discarded due to wrong processing. Our project will look into this black box in a close collaboration of four industrial partners (Merck Chemicals Ltd, Kurt J. Lesker Company Ltd, Eight19 Ltd, Oxford PV Ltd) and three academic partners (ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, Diamond Lightsource, University of Oxford) and subsequently develop ways to optimise the manufacturing of organic solar cells. This involves optimisation along the complete value chain, from the design and synthesis of organic semiconductors, the development of manufacturing equipment, to the final production of organic solar cells. If successful, this project will lead to a faster market introduction of thin film solar cells that have the potential to transform the way we use solar energy.

Planned Impact

There will be important social, environmental and economic benefits to the UK through this project. Organic solar cells have the potential to significantly contribute to the clean energy supply. Their flexibility - both in terms of mechanics and design - allow the excellent integration in places so far little used for solar energy conversions, e.g. building facades, considerably expanding the area usable for photovoltaics. Additionally, organic solar cells don't rely on scarce elements and can in principle be scaled to terawatt in installed capacity. The reduction of CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 is a central goal of the UK government. This will require a significant share from renewable sources. Organic solar cells have the potential to significantly contribute to this goal. This will also reduce the UK's dependence on energy imports and additionally stabilize energy prices. The latter will lead to a reduction of the associated risk to many UK companies and reduce the likelihood for households to end up in energy poverty. Last but not least using such solar cells will reduce CO2 emissions globally and thus help to stabilise the climate and reduce the likelihood of severe weather events.
Helping chemical companies to design better materials for organic solar cells, tool manufacturers to develop suitable coating equipment and processes, and establishing a manufacturing base for cheap solar cells in the UK will create jobs in the green sector for many years to come. Given the targeted market size of several terawatt of installed capacity of solar cells, there are plenty of opportunities for chemical companies like Merck and tool manufacturers like Lesker to grow their business, and enough room even for competing SMEs like Eight19 and Oxford Photovoltaics to get to a healthy market share.
Furthermore, organic solar cells are only one part of the much larger field of organic electronics that faces similar challenges in understanding structure-property relationships. According to market forecasts, the market for organic electronics is expected to grow by more than 30% annually and should reach a volume of more than USD 40billion in 2018 (Transparency Market Research, 2012). The developed guidelines on material design, tools and process optimisation will help all industry catering the field of organic electronics to better exploit this market. Organic electronics has already lead to fixed displays from organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) for mobile phones. This technology is expected to become the dominant display technology for mobile phones this year. Large TVs made from OLEDs have just entered the market, as well as curved OLED displays as predecessor to truly flexible OLED displays. Many more applications of organic electronics are at various stages of research, and some may not yet have been thought, yet can have a profound impact on many people.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description In addition to research results helping industry to faster commercialise emerging solar cell technologies, we developed a new piece of equipment for beamline I07 at Diamond: MINERVA: A facility to study Microstructure and INterface Evolution in Realtime under VAcuum. In this vacuum chamber, organic semiconductors can be deposited into thin films and during the deposition process we can observe how these molecule arrange at the nanometre scale. This is of paramount importance for the performance of devices based on organic semiconductors, as their properties depend significantly on the local molecular arrangements. It is planned for MINERVA to become a user facility once we've ironed out the last snagging issues.
Exploitation Route For example: MINERVA will become a user facility, enabling research for other users at Diamond.
Sectors Chemicals,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description Improved collaboration with industry and acceleration of commercialization of organic solar cells.
Sector Electronics,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description G7 Statement with GYA input
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact Some of our recommendations on early stage researchers and women in research to the G7 Science Ministers' meeting made it into the Final Tsukuba Communiqué
URL http://www8.cao.go.jp/cstp/english/others/communique_en.html
 
Description More Open Access Pledge
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
URL https://moreopenaccess.net/
 
Description Position Statement on Open Data by the Young Academies of Europe and the Global Young Academy
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
URL https://globalyoungacademy.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Position-Statement-on-Open-Data-by-the-You...
 
Description Position statement on Open Access by the Young Academies of Europe and the Global Young Academy
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
URL https://globalyoungacademy.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Position-statement-on-Open-Access-by-the-Y...
 
Description The role of Young Academies in achieving the UN SDGs, 10/17
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact taken up and promoted by several senior science academies
URL https://globalyoungacademy.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Statement-RoleYoungAcademies-SDGs-Oct2017....
 
Description Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Innovative Training Network
Amount € 3,826,024 (EUR)
Funding ID 722651 
Organisation European Commission 
Department Horizon 2020
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 11/2016 
End 10/2020
 
Description STFC GCRF Foundation Awards 2017
Amount £3,600,000 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2017 
End 03/2021
 
Title MINERVA chamber 
Description A new vacuum chamber has been built that directly enables in-situ monitoring of the structural changes during growth of molecular materials studied by grazing incidence x-ray scattering techniques. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Papers are in preparation to identify the dynamics of growth and the effect is in-situ crystallisation. 
 
Title Our Group's Github Page 
Description Following Open Science/Innovation approaches, we put all our code, procedures and design up on github 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Code, procedures and designs available online 
URL https://github.com/AFMD
 
Description CLASP Industrial Partners 
Organisation Eight19
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Kick-off and various other meetings, specifications and preparation of samples, planning of experiments, exchange of expertise, ongoing discussions
Collaborator Contribution Industrial expertise and definition of industrial needs, specifications and supply of samples, ongoing discussions
Impact multidisciplinary collaboration, exchange of samples specifications
Start Year 2013
 
Description CLASP Industrial Partners 
Organisation Kurt J Lesker Company
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Kick-off and various other meetings, specifications and preparation of samples, planning of experiments, exchange of expertise, ongoing discussions
Collaborator Contribution Industrial expertise and definition of industrial needs, specifications and supply of samples, ongoing discussions
Impact multidisciplinary collaboration, exchange of samples specifications
Start Year 2013
 
Description CLASP Industrial Partners 
Organisation Merck
Department Merck UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Kick-off and various other meetings, specifications and preparation of samples, planning of experiments, exchange of expertise, ongoing discussions
Collaborator Contribution Industrial expertise and definition of industrial needs, specifications and supply of samples, ongoing discussions
Impact multidisciplinary collaboration, exchange of samples specifications
Start Year 2013
 
Description CLASP Industrial Partners 
Organisation Oxford Photovoltaics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Kick-off and various other meetings, specifications and preparation of samples, planning of experiments, exchange of expertise, ongoing discussions
Collaborator Contribution Industrial expertise and definition of industrial needs, specifications and supply of samples, ongoing discussions
Impact multidisciplinary collaboration, exchange of samples specifications
Start Year 2013
 
Description Heliatek GmbH 
Organisation Heliatek GmbH
Country Germany 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Discussions about the photophysics of organic solar cells
Collaborator Contribution Discussions about the industrial relevance & direction of research
Impact in preparation
Start Year 2013
 
Description U Fribourg, Switzerland 
Organisation University of Fribourg
Country Switzerland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Samples, time for discussions and visits
Collaborator Contribution Discussions, time on ultrafast setup
Impact multi-disciplinary: physics & chemistry
Start Year 2016
 
Description Article Chemistry World 06/16 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Mentioning of research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.chemistryworld.com/feature/the-next-generation/1010134.article
 
Description Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics 03/17 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Labtour to the participants of the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://twitter.com/AFMDGroup/status/845663190503604232
 
Description HZB Workshop Josue 10/16 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Josue's poster "MINERVA: A facility to study MIcrostructure and INterface Evolution in Realtime under vAcuum" at HZB Workshop in Berlin
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description ICACC 2017 Josue 01/17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Josue's invited presentation "Assessing microstructure and interfacial diffusion of MoO 3 in organic solar cells using x-ray and neutron scattering" at ICACC 2017 Daytona Beach 01/2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited Presentation CPE Symposium, London, 06/17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited presentation at the Centre for Plastic Electronics Symposium 2017, London
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited Seminar ICCAS, CN, 08/2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact invited seminar
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited Seminar Moritz Riede, AMOLF, NL, 03/2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited Seminar at AMOLF in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and meeting with academics there
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited Seminar Moritz Riede, Abo Akademy University, FI, 06/2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited seminar
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited Seminar Moritz Riede, OSCAR Opening, CN, 11/2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Invited Seminar as part of the OSCAR opening
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited Seminar Moritz Riede, Tianjin University, CN, 03/2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited Seminar
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description JSPS Presentation Josue 11/16 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Josue's presentation "In-situ X-ray and Optical Characterisation of Vacuum-Deposited Organic Semiconductors" at the JSPS event at the Japanese Embassy London
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Oxford Physics Industry Day Sameer 09/16 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presenting Poster at the Oxford Physics Industry Day
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://twitter.com/AFMDGroup/status/779428417334808576
 
Description Presentation Moritz Riede, F-Pi 13, Hongkong, 06/17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Contributed presentation at the 13th International Symposium on Pi-conjugated systems
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Regional School Physicist of the Year Event Sameer 10/16 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Engagement with students during the Regional School Physicist of the Year Event hosted by the Physics Department in Oxford, judging of the posters presented by the students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://twitter.com/AFMDGroup/status/792047256631246848
 
Description UBC ECE Presentation 11/16 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact invited seminar "Organic Solar Cells: a disruptive Technology?" in the department "Electrical and Computer Engineering" at UBC
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Uni Glasgow 03/16 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact invited seminar "Vacuum-processed Organic Solar Cells" at Uni Glasgow
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Visit MP Blackwood Ivan 12/16 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presenting a Poster during Symposium on 2nd December for Ms Nicola Blackwood MP
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://twitter.com/nicolablackwood/status/804781026765578241
 
Description Wolfson Careers Day, 03/2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact podium discussion (three invited speakers: academia, policy, industry) for career advice
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Workshop Participation, GOSH, CN, 010/2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Gathering of Global Open Science Hardware (GOSH)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018