Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have unlocked a process that could speed the development of plastic solar cells, a technology that could make solar energy cost a fraction of its current price.
In a paper published Oct. 18 in the online version of the journal Nature Chemistry, a team led by professor Guillermo Bazan cut the time it takes create the chains of molecules for plastic solar cells down from two days to half an hour. The team also more than tripled how long it can grow the chains, an adventure which is expected to lead to increases in how much sunlight plastic solar cells can turn into energy.
Plastic solar cells are important because they can be produced much more cheaply than traditional cells. The light-catching molecule chains used in the cells can be dissolved and “printed” onto thin plastic sheets, much like the process for making photographic film. Traditional solar cells grow crystals on a stiff and heavy silicon base.