Solar Power Update: Organic Record Set, New Ceramic-Tungsten Cells

Material scientists improve the efficiency of organic single junction solar cells while another team enhances the heat resistance of their own design by adding ceramic and tungsten to the mix.

A team of material scientists from South China University of Technology (SCUT) and Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have improved upon the light absorption, energy levels and microstructure of organic semiconductors within their eco friendly solar cell to reach an energy conversion efficiency of 12.25% – setting a record for organic single junction solar cells with a surface area of one centimeter, while possessing no fullerenes in their acceptor material.

The main goal of this operation was to increase the total compatibility between donor and acceptor materials – terminology used to describe micro-structure compounds that absorb and exchange light amongst themselves, enabling the conversion of photons in to electricity. Another secondary goal was to improve balance between short-circuit current density – prominent when voltage is precisely nothing and open-circuit voltage – where there is a difference of electrical potential amongst two terminals. Both of these are requirements for electricity output and improving cohesion between them enhances the total energetic yield.

“I think the best way to describe our work is by imagining a box of Lego bricks,” says Li. “Our partners in China inserted and adjusted single molecular groups into the polymer structure, and each of these groups influences a special characteristic that is important for the function of solar cells.”

The research team was likely purposefully vague to prevent copyright infringement. With that being said, whatever exact material and strategy they deployed for achieving a higher conversion efficiency rate did remain stable, and was able to withstand simulations of temperature and sunlight. Ultimately proving that it’s ready for production.


In contemporary solar panels, if the heat were to rise above 550 degrees celsius, all systems would begin to rapidly deteriorate and malfunction. That unfortunately places a cap on the total amount of energy that can be harvested without outrunning electrical output in maintenance costs.

To increase the high temperature threshold researchers from Texas A&M University rearranged a new composite material from two refractory metals – ceramic and tungsten, that together can endure temperatures higher then 750 degrees Celsius. Improving the durability of their solar system by a figure of 28%

Scientists suggest that this newly acquired feature of improved heat absorption enabled by ceramic and tungsten could increase the efficacy of electrical generation inside of integrated solar circuits and eventually, supercritical CO2 power plants by a total of 20 percent.

“Using this material for manufacturing heat exchangers is an important step towards direct competition with fossil fuel power plants and a large reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” says Jarrahbashi. With its unique chemical, mechanical, and thermal characteristics, the applications for the composite are numerous. From safely upgrading nuclear power plants to constructing rocket nozzles, the implications of this innovation stretch far into the future of research and industry.

Additional researchers were contributed by the Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Purdue University. The study was funded by The Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative, where researchers collaborated with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Published in Nature



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