Plastic Solar Breakthrough: Efficiency Record Broken by Solarmer

solarmer plastic solar panels photo

Photo: Solarmer
Plastic Organic Photovoltaic Technology is Maturing
The Californian startup Solarmer has been making good progress with its plastic organic PV in the past few years. It hit 6% efficiency in 2007, 7.6% a few months ago, and they've now broken their own record with 7.9% (a number that has been certified by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory). This technology has the potential of bringing the cost of solar energy down, and also to allow us to put solar panels in all kinds of places.Coming to Market Soon (But Probably in Small Quantities for a While)
Keith Emery, who manages NREL's PV cell and module performance and characterization team of the NREL, said: "It's the best organic device we've seen to date, period. That's a milestone for the technology in and of itself, so we updated the chart where we keep efficiency versus time at the cell level for various technologies. This is a new point on that plot."

Solarmer's roadmap aims for a 10% conversion efficiency for its OPV cells by the end of 2010. The company is currently doing some pilot manufacturing with roll-to-roll technology, and plans to bring some products to market next year.

Here's more details on Solarmer's technology:

First, low-cost plastic is used as the active materials to convert solar energy into electricity. Thanks to the extraordinary light absorption capability of the plastics, the active plastics layer is extremely thin - only a few tenth of micrometer thick, i.e. less than 1/1000 of silicon cell. This material cost is significantly lower.

Second, very low cost printing techniques can and will be used to manufacture plastic solar cells (just thinking of the newspaper). The combination gives much lower cost of equivalent energy (only ~10 - 20% that of silicon technology). In addition, the fabrication process is both low temperature and environmentally friendly, significantly reduces the amount of energy consumption in the manufacturing process.

Via Solarmer, Cleantech
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