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Solarmer Utilizes FlexTech's Flexible Substrate to Enhance Efficiency of its Polymer Solar Cells

SpecialChem / Jun 28, 2011

Organic photovoltaic cells (OPV) are finally becoming competitive with crystalline silicon modules in terms of efficiency, stability, and cost.

Over the last few years, efficiency of OPVs has gone from 1%-2% to about 9%. Recently, a project funded by FlexTech Alliance helped boost efficiency to nearly 12% using high-efficiency donor polymer materials developed by Solarmer Energy Inc. This project builds upon previous designs to synthesize a new active layer material in polymer solar cells that delivers improved properties such as low bandgap, appropriate molecular energy levels, good mobility, and excellent processability.

Other types of flexible substrates also have the potential to reduce the cost/Watt of solar energy and improve lifetime performance of photovoltaics. For instance, under a grant from FlexTech Alliance to develop commercially viable methods for continuous printed electronic manufacturing, Corning Inc. has developed a flexible glass substrate. Flexible glass offers the smoothness, barrier properties, heat tolerance, and minimal distortion under stress needed to create stable photovoltaic products that can be manufactured in a roll-to-roll process.

Manufacturing costs of flexible solar cells may soon be further reduced by means of a high-speed atomic layer deposition (ALD) system under development at Cambridge NanoTech. ALD is an ideal coating technology because of its perfect, conformal, ultra-thin films that are scalable to large-area substrates. FlexTech Alliance awarded a contract to Cambridge NanoTech to develop a system that, when completed, will enable the manufacturing of large-area and flexible substrates for use in organic electronics, solar cells, biomedical devices and displays.

Vast improvements made by companies such as Solarmer Energy are approaching the sub-$0.50/Watt level needed to outperform traditional power production on a financial basis and trigger true economies-of-scale in solar manufacturing.

About Solarmer Energy, Inc.

Solarmer Energy, Inc. is a developer of transparent, flexible plastic solar panels, the next wave in generating renewable energy from the sun. These solar panels are opening the door for a wide range of new application areas in renewable energy, which are not currently addressable with conventional silicon solar panel technology. Their company's solar panels have the potential to reduce the cost of renewable energy down to 12-15 cents/kWh and less than $1/Watt, which means plastic solar panels will be the first in solar capable of generating electricity on par with conventional fuel costs.

Solarmer was founded in 2006 to commercialize this technology, which was developed by Professor Yang at the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA. The company has licensed this technology from UCLA and additional technology developed by Professor Luping Yu at the University of Chicago. These plastic solar panels, made from very thin layers of plastics and other materials, convert solar energy into electricity in a very cost-effective way.

About FlexTech Alliance

The FlexTech Alliance is one of the organizations headquartered in North America devoted to fostering the growth, profitability and success of the electronic display and flexible, printed electronics supply chain. Leveraging its rich history in promoting the display industry as the U.S. Display Consortium, the FlexTech Alliance offers expanded collaboration between and among industry, academia, and research organizations for advancing displays and flexible, printed electronics from R&D to commercialization.

The FlexTech Alliance, which is based in San Jose, Calif. and has regional chapters operating throughout North America, will help foster development of the supply chain required to support a world-class, manufacturing capability for displays and flexible, printed electronics in this key region.

Source: FlexTech Alliance


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