A two-year partnership between Houston-based Phillips 66, California-based Solarmer Energy and the South China University of Technology (SCUT) has resulted in the most efficient polymer-based organic solar cell ever constructed. The cell features an efficiency rating of 9.31%, and it puts the team a good step further in introducing the technology to the market. Polymer-based solar cells are transparent, lightweight and flexible – and the technology is thought to open up several new creative applications for solar power, including integrating flexible solar films in vehicles, transparent solar cell windows, and even solar-powered clothing.
Current polymer-based solar cells only have about half the efficiency of typical silicon-based solar cells. They also degrade much faster. On the other hand, they are three to five times cheaper and have better performance in low-light conditions.
“This marks an important milestone for the industry and has the potential to deliver truly low cost energy for the world.” stated Byron Johnson, the manager of sustainability technologies at Phillips 66.
“It’s a nice technical advance,” said Andrew Barron, a professor of chemistry and materials science at Rice University. “It sets a benchmark for other people to try to improve. But it’s not going to be a commercial reality anytime soon unless they have a significant change in performance.” Johnson admits they have to improve the efficiency rate at least another 2 percent to become commercially viable.
“Solarmer remains steadfast in its mission to bring OPV technology to the market, and continuously breaking new ground is essential to achieving this goal. We are confident of breaking the 10 percent efficiency mark very soon,” said Woolas Hsieh, president and co-founder of Solarmer.