Anirudh Sharma with an experimental plastic solar cell. Photo: Flinders University
A Flinders University researcher
has been developing a cheaper and faster way of making large-scale
plastic solar cells using a lamination technique, paving the way for a
lucrative new clean energy industry.
The novel method, developed by
graduate candidate Anirudh Sharma, is a promising alternative to the expensive
fabrication techniques currently used in the renewable energy sector, and would
make the commercialization of plastic solar cell technology more viable.
While plastic solar cells have
been researched for the past 15 years, Sharma says the current fabrication
process, which involves vacuum conditions, was still relatively expensive and
time intensive for large-scale production compared to his lamination technique.
“In the conventional method of
fabricating plastic solar cells you have to deposit various materials
sequentially on top of each other in a sandwich structure but over time the
materials intermix, leading to device degradation,” Sharma, based in the School
of Chemical and Physical Sciences, says.
“However my technique involves
deposition of materials on two different electrically conductive surfaces,
followed by lamination. It gives better control over the material intermixing
and thus can give more stable and better performing devices,” he says.
“The entire lamination process is
roll-to-roll compatible, which means that the lamination technique could be
integrated with printing machines similar to newspaper printers.
“Therefore the materials can be
deposited by printing and devices can be fabricated by lamination at the same
time, making the entire process scalable at relatively much lower costs.
“This is a much cheaper way of
fabricating solar cells because you can make a large number of devices in a
very short time, and this method of self-encapsulation can potentially help
improve the lifespan of the device as well.”
Sharma says plastic solar cells
were a cheaper and more sustainable form of renewable energy compared with
“For the past 50 years, the
traditional solar panels which you see on rooftops have been made from silicon
but these cells are very expensive to produce because silicon requires
excessive amounts of energy to purify.
“Plastic solar cells, on the
other hand, are really light and flexible so they can be used to coat a whole
range of different surfaces—they are portable enough to put them on day to day
carry bags and even camping tents—and plastic itself is cheap as chips.
“Building developers are already
looking at integrating plastic solar cells with the latest building designs by
using plastic solar cell-coated window panes for new buildings so this
technology will definitely replace silicon in the very near future.
“And my research shows real
promise for a faster, more cost-effective way of making plastic cells.”
Source: Flinders University