organic solar cell

An organic solar cell or plastic solar cell is a type of photovoltaic that uses organic electronics, a branch of electronics that deals with conductive organic polymers or small organic molecules, for light absorption and charge transport to produce electricity from sunlight by the photovoltaic effect. Most organic photovoltaic cells are polymer solar cells.

The molecules used in organic solar cells are solution-processable at high throughput and are cheap, resulting in low production costs to fabricate a large volume. Combined with the flexibility of organic molecules, organic solar cells are potentially cost-effective for photovoltaic applications. Molecular engineering (e.g. changing the length and functional group of polymers) can change the band gap, allowing for electronic tunability. The optical absorption coefficient of organic molecules is high, so a large amount of light can be absorbed with a small amount of materials, usually on the order of hundreds of nanometers. The main disadvantages associated with organic photovoltaic cells are low efficiency, low stability and low strength compared to inorganic photovoltaic cells such as silicon solar cells.

Compared to silicon-based devices, polymer solar cells are lightweight (which is important for small autonomous sensors), potentially disposable and inexpensive to fabricate (sometimes using printed electronics), flexible, customizable on the molecular level and potentially have less adverse environmental impact. Polymer solar cells also have the potential to exhibit transparency, suggesting applications in windows, walls, flexible electronics, etc. An example device is shown in Fig. 1. The disadvantages of polymer solar cells are also serious: they offer about 1/3 of the efficiency of hard materials, and experience substantial photochemical degradation.

Polymer solar cells inefficiency and stability problems, combined with their promise of low costs and increased efficiency made them a popular field in solar cell research. As of 2015, polymer solar cells were able to achieve over 10% efficiency via a tandem structure.