E.ON backs organic-inorganic hybrid photovoltaic project at UK university

by Antonio Pasolini on January 19, 2009

The Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey has been awarded a major research grant by the energy giant E.ON as part of their ‘Application of Nanotechnology in the Energy Business’.

The three year project, led by Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the Advanced Technology Institute, is studying ways to apply nanotechnological expertise of the institute in the design, fabrication and characterization of the organic-inorganic hybrid solar cells.

At present over 90% of the solar cell modules are silicon-based, which offer relatively high power conversion efficiencies, although at a higher cost. Conventional technologies have not been able to address the key issue facing the solar electricity market; the high cost of a unit of energy produced.

The aim of all major PV projects to date has been either a highly efficient $1 per Watt cell, or a more pragmatic cell/system approach of possibly lower cell efficiency, but with a significant manufacturing, power electronics and installation cost advantage. The emergence of organic material based solar cell technologies promise great potential towards low cost energy. Their solution-based simple fabrication techniques are expected to off-set the inherently lower efficiencies of the organic cells.

Professor Silva’s group at the University of Surrey aims to improve these technologies even further, and move closer to commercialization, by incorporating inorganic nano-scale materials with their expertise in nanotechnology. Carbon nanotubes, which are nano-scale structures, can be incorporated into organic cells enhancing their performance greatly, according to Professor Silva.

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