Cheaper organic solar power takes a step closer to reality

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Physicists have discovered new properties that could lead to efficient and inexpensive solar electricity production, making solar power a more practical energy alternative for home owners.

The findings made by scientists at Rutgers University in New Jersey and posted online on October 10 reveal the discovery of unique properties in an organic crystal material called rubrene.

Previously when excitons particles passed through organic materials they only travelled microscopic distances, meaning that the majority of solar energy was lost. However, scientists at Rutgers have found that when passed through the organic material rubrene the particles travelled a thousand times further, vastly improving the photovoltaic efficiency of organic cells.

This discovery is of importance to consumers as organic solar cells are generally cheaper to produce than silicon alternatives, but have previously been overlooked due to their low efficiency rating. The finding that exciton particles can pass further through the organic material rubrene means that the efficiency of such cells could be increased, leading to the production of dramatically cheaper household solar cells.

However, to date the findings of the discovery have only been demonstrated under laboratory conditions.

In September, scientists at Cambridge University in the UK and the Carbon Trust began developing organic solar cells on flexible transparent material that could be simply rolled out and installed or even attached to windows.

The development of such organic solar cells could give consumers greater freedom in installation, cheaper alternative energy solutions and could benefit homeowners with limited installation space.

The full report is available to read online in subscription-only journal Nature Materials at