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Organic Photovoltaic Materials Charge up Portable Electronics

Organic Photovoltaic Materials Charge up Portable Electronics

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Published by NanoMarkets
Over the last decade, portable electronic devices such as mobile phones, mp3 players, PDAs and laptop computers have proliferated at a spectacular rate. Compact rechargeable batteries have been fundamental to the success of these products. So have increasingly powerful microchips, whose capacity has continued to observe the exponential growth described by Moore's Law. Unfortunately, the energy density of batteries has not.

Clever engineers have been able to maintain an acceptable time between charges by using power management software, new power-management chips, and more energy-efficient components, but such tweaks can only achieve so much. If portable electronics are to become still more powerful, consumers will either have to plug into the grid more often, or product designers will have to enable access to a more convenient source of energy.

And what could be more accessible than light? Efficient solar cells, drawing on sunlight or even artificial light, could extend the time between charges, perhaps even indefinitely.

The idea isn't new. Solar powered calculators have been available for decades. They require little power, however, and energy hogs like mobile phones present a more difficult problem.

An emerging technology, thin-film organic photovoltaics (OPVs) and dye-sensitized cells (DSCs) may be the solution. A host of companies is busily developing materials and intellectual property to establish themselves in this new market, from chemical giants such as BASF to highly focused start-ups such as Konarka and Plextronics.

Organic Photovoltaic Markets, a recent study by NanoMarkets, looks at the activities of these and many other companies to estimate the opportunity represented by these technologies.
Over the last decade, portable electronic devices such as mobile phones, mp3 players, PDAs and laptop computers have proliferated at a spectacular rate. Compact rechargeable batteries have been fundamental to the success of these products. So have increasingly powerful microchips, whose capacity has continued to observe the exponential growth described by Moore's Law. Unfortunately, the energy density of batteries has not.

Clever engineers have been able to maintain an acceptable time between charges by using power management software, new power-management chips, and more energy-efficient components, but such tweaks can only achieve so much. If portable electronics are to become still more powerful, consumers will either have to plug into the grid more often, or product designers will have to enable access to a more convenient source of energy.

And what could be more accessible than light? Efficient solar cells, drawing on sunlight or even artificial light, could extend the time between charges, perhaps even indefinitely.

The idea isn't new. Solar powered calculators have been available for decades. They require little power, however, and energy hogs like mobile phones present a more difficult problem.

An emerging technology, thin-film organic photovoltaics (OPVs) and dye-sensitized cells (DSCs) may be the solution. A host of companies is busily developing materials and intellectual property to establish themselves in this new market, from chemical giants such as BASF to highly focused start-ups such as Konarka and Plextronics.

Organic Photovoltaic Markets, a recent study by NanoMarkets, looks at the activities of these and many other companies to estimate the opportunity represented by these technologies.

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Published by: NanoMarkets on Oct 24, 2008
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NanoMarkets
NanoMarkets, LC |PO Box 3840 |Glen Allen, VA 23058 |TEL: 804-360-2967|FAX: 804-360-2967
thin film|organic|printable|electronics
 
www.nanomarkets.net
Page | 1
Organic Photovoltaic Materials Charge up Portable Electronics
This article is based off the NanoMarkets report Organic Photovoltaic Markets
 
Over the last decade, portable electronic devices such as mobile phones, mp3 players, PDAs andlaptop computers have proliferated at a spectacular rate. Compact rechargeable batteries havebeen fundamental to the success of these products. So have increasingly powerful microchips,whose capacity has continued to observe the exponential growth described by Moore’s Law.Unfortunately, the energy density of batteries has not.Clever engineers have been able to maintain an acceptable time between charges by usingpower management software, new power-management chips, and more energy-efficientcomponents, but such tweaks can only achieve so much. If portable electronics are to becomestill more powerful, consumers will either have to plug into the grid more often, or productdesigners will have to enable access to a more convenient source of energy.And what could be more accessible than light? Efficient solar cells, drawing on sunlight or evenartificial light, could extend the time between charges, perhaps even indefinitely.The idea isn’t new. Solar powered calculators have been available for decades. They requirelittle power, however, and energy hogs like mobile phones present a more difficult problem.An emerging technology, thin-film organic photovoltaics (OPVs) and dye-sensitized cells (DSCs)may be the solution. A host of companies is busily developing materials and intellectualproperty to establish themselves in this new market, from chemical giants such as BASF to highlyfocused start-ups such as Konarka and Plextronics.
Organic Photovoltaic Markets,
a recent study by NanoMarkets, looks at the activities of theseand many other companies to estimate the opportunity represented by these technologies.
Cheap, flexible and responsive
Scientists have known since 1906 that organic materials can turn light into electricity, but itwasn’t until the 1950s that researchers began using common organic dyes such as chlorophylland methylene blue in photovoltaic devices. In the 1980s, work with polymers such aspoly(sulfur nitride) began, and by 1986, a scientist at Eastman Kodak had made thebreakthrough discovery that combining donor and acceptor materials in a single celldramatically improved efficiency.In the last two decades, new materials and more sophisticated architectures have advancedOPVs to the point that efficiencies exceeding 6 percent have been achieved, and 8-10 percent islikely within the next few years. Even more efficient are DSCs, hybrids that combine
 
NanoMarkets
NanoMarkets, LC |PO Box 3840 |Glen Allen, VA 23058 |TEL: 804-360-2967|FAX: 804-360-2967
thin film|organic|printable|electronics
 
www.nanomarkets.net
Page | 2organometallic dyes and mesoporous inorganic oxides. Discovered in 1991, these devices haveachieved efficiencies as high as 11 percent.The efficiency of OPVs and DSCs compares poorly with silicon photovoltaics, which offerefficiencies over 20 percent, but other advantages, particularly low cost, flexibility andperformance in low or variable light, make them competitive for a range of niche applicationsextending beyond portable electronics to building-integrated systems, signage, packaging andsmart fabrics.Organic photovoltaics are relatively cheap to fabricate using inexpensive, well-understoodcoating processes such as inkjet printing or spin coating on large, flexible substrates such asplastic. The flexible product is light, easy to install and versatile—for example, it might be rolledup for storage. And the nature of the photoactive materials themselves means OPVs and DSCsperform well in dim or variable light, unlike silicon.Each of these characteristics is well suited to portable electronics. Being inexpensive, the newcapability would not add prohibitively to the cost of the device, be it a mobile phone, mp3player, laptop or another consumer device. Given their physical properties, the cells could beeither laminated to the case or embedded in a flexible peripheral. The responsiveness of thecells would allow them to charge even indoors, an important consideration since portableelectronics are not typically exposed to sunlight.
Benefits of DSC and OPV Cells
Dye Sensitized Cells (DSC) Organic PV (OPV)
Efficiency 10.4 percent efficiency (liquid BHJ) 5.2 percent (solid BHJ)Main Benefits Offers the lowest cost of all printed PVcellsLightweight and flexibleEnable R2R and standard printingCommercially available since 2007 fromG24iLow cost fabrication of large area devicesLightweight, flexible and tunableEnable R2R and fast standard printingLifetime of 3 to 5 yearsEnabler for applications wheremechanical flexibility and disposability arevaluedMaindisadvantagesDegradation under heat and UV light, cellcasing is difficult to seal due to solvents,corrosionNot commercially available (Konarkaplans for late 2008)Material instability over long termFuture impact Printable on large areasEfficiencies up to 15 percentSolid flexible DSCsPrintable on large areasStability for 10-20 years10 percent efficiency with single junction,and up to 20 percent with multiple junctions
 
Source: NanoMarkets, LC 
Early days
Several products are already on the market. For example, U.K.-based G24i is commercializingDSC-based phone chargers in Africa and India, where they can provide a more reliable primaryor back-up power source than the grids. Called Gcell Flex, they are able to supply up to 20minutes of talk time for every hour of charging. G24i has been able to reduce the cost of the
 
NanoMarkets
NanoMarkets, LC |PO Box 3840 |Glen Allen, VA 23058 |TEL: 804-360-2967|FAX: 804-360-2967
thin film|organic|printable|electronics
 
www.nanomarkets.net
Page | 3product by a factor of five in the last two years, to just $20, and the company has invested $120million in a Wales manufacturing facility.“G24i is targeting the emerging markets of Africa and India, unlike its main competitor Konarka,because G24i understand that mobile phone usage in Africa is set to explode from 600mhandsets to 2 billion by 2015,” says Philip Drachman, author of the NanoMarkets study.Konarka, a Lowell, Massachusetts-based spinout from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell,is supplying the U.S. Army with solar-powered battery chargers based on its OPV-based PowerPlastic, which can be flexed to a 2-inch diameter. Konarka is also working with Toppan Forms, aTokyo printing and information management firm, on the commercialization of Power Plasticwithin the sophisticated Japanese electronics market. Toppan brings well-developed roll-to-rollprinting processes to the project. A partnership with SKYShades, announced earlier this year,could lead to the commercialization of canopies and other tension membrane fabric structuresincorporating Power Plastic.
OPV-Based Power Plastic
Source: Konarka Technologies, Inc.
An IP powerhouse, Konarka has attracted over $100 million in venture capital and equityfunding. Its chief scientist is Alan Heeger, who shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for hiswork on conductive polymers. In October 2008, the firm announced the opening of “the world’slargest” roll-to-roll thin-film photovoltaic manufacturing facility in New Bedford, Massachusetts.“This facility has state-of-the-art printing capabilities that are ready for full operation, with thefuture potential to produce over a gigawatt of flexible plastic solar modules per year,” saysHoward Berke, executive chairman and co-founder of Konarka. The output of the facility, whichhas a capacity exceeding 10 million square meters of material per year, will be used for indoor,portable, outdoor and building-integrated applications—essentially the entire range of applications suited to organic photovoltaics.

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