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Special coating greatly improves solar cell performance
Date:2/22/2008

The energy from sunlight falling on only 9 percent of Californias Mojave Desert could power all of the United States electricity needs if the energy could be efficiently harvested, according to some estimates. Unfortunately, current-generation solar cell technologies are too expensive and inefficient for wide-scale commercial applications.

A team of Northwestern University researchers has developed a new anode coating strategy that significantly enhances the efficiency of solar energy power conversion. A paper about the work, which focuses on engineering organic material-electrode interfaces in bulk-heterojunction organic solar cells, is published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

This breakthrough in solar energy conversion promises to bring researchers and developers worldwide closer to the goal of producing cheaper, more manufacturable and more easily implemented solar cells. Such technology would greatly reduce our dependence on burning fossil fuels for electricity production as well as reduce the combustion product: carbon dioxide, a global warming greenhouse gas.

Tobin J. Marks, the Vladimir N. Ipatieff Research Professor in Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and professor of materials science and engineering, and Robert Chang, professor of materials science and engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, led the research team. Other Northwestern team members were researcher Bruce Buchholz and graduate students Michael D. Irwin and Alexander W. Hains.

Of the new solar energy conversion technologies on the horizon, solar cells fabricated from plastic-like organic materials are attractive because they could be printed cheaply and quickly by a process similar to printing a newspaper (roll-to-roll processing).

To date, the most successful type of plastic photovoltaic cell is called a bulk-heterojunction cell. This cell u
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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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