Organic Solar Cell Sets Efficiency Record

Heliatek, a Dresden, Germany-based developer of organic photovoltaic cells, is claiming a new world record for solar cell efficiency. With a certified efficiency of 9.8 percent, this is Heliatek’s third world record in a row for cell efficiency in its class.

Heliatek specializes in a class of high-end, “third generation” organic solar cells manufactured from “oligomers,” or small molecules. The technology differs from polymer-based and dye-sensitized organic solar cells in that the cells can be manufactured at low temperatures, using minimal, nontoxic materials. Rather than a modified printing process, which requires toxic solvents, Heliatek applies the small molecules to a substrate using evaporation, and then uses a laser to fine-tune the deposition.

Heliatek

image via Heliatek

A method similar to this has already been widely adopted by manufacturers of organic LEDs (OLEDs). The result is a lightweight, flexible material that can be manufactured in various colors and integrated into textiles, electronics and building materials. Although these cells don’t have the conversion efficiency rates of the best crystalline silicon or thin-film technologies, they are significantly cheaper to manufacture.

According to Thibaud Le Séguillon, CEO of Heliatek, the company plans to develop a cell that tops 10 percent efficiency sometime next year, and is looking to raise €50 million in new capital in order to expand the company’s production capacity and add additional manufacturing lines to integrate the new high-efficiency cells. “This will allow us to market our high-performance panels into new areas, such as windows and façades for BIPV,” Le Séguillon said in a statement. “This technology has really the potential to revolutionize the solar industry.”

Heliatek has in-house chemistry and physics research departments. The company’s research and development projects are funded, in part, by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

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