Despite the impediments, since its inception in 2010 CEP has already cataloguedmore than 6 million molecular motifs that could lead to the development of next-generation solar cells based on organic technology.The molecules were submitted by a network of volunteers recruited through theWorld Community Grid, a project of IBM, which recently made headlines for anadvanced energy research project to improve electric vehicle battery performance.
When the CEP database is available later this year, it will speed up the pace of organic solar cell development by enabling researchers to perform relativelyinexpensive computer modeling to identify promising molecules; that is, moleculescapable of absorbing the broadest possible spectrum of sunlight and convert it intousable energy.Without the database, the characterization of organic molecules is a laborious,expensive undertaking.
Advantages of organic solar cells
Solar cells based on organic materials
basically, polymers or types of plastic
have a number of advantages over conventional silicon cells. They have thepotential to cost far less, partly because the manufacturing process is relativelysimple and energy-efficient. They use little or no toxic substances and their lightweight, flexibility and transparency provide for a multitude of uses that areprohibitively expensive or impossible to achieve with silicon.The National Renewable Energy Laboratory,for example, has been working with
the firm New Energy Technology to develop transparent solar cells that could be
applied to window glass.Dr. Alán Aspuru-Guzik, an associate professor at Harvard who leads the CEPinitiative, explains the overall advantages of organic technology:
“Solar cells are environmentally friendly but still very expensive investments,”
Guzik. “Highly engineered materials are needed, as well as novel
designs for solar cells and fuel cells based on organic molecules, which oftenrequire compounds with very specificcharacteristics to efficiently capture and/or storage energy. To make them cost-competitive and more widely accessible, we need new, inexpensive materials that
perform better than existing technologies.”