In the quest for renewable and clean energy sources, Bernard Kippelen is banking on the sun. By developing solar cells made from inexpensive, lightweight, flexible organic materials, Kippelen and colleagues at the Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics are working to open up new markets for solar energy. The paperthin, flexible organic solar cells have the potential to power everything from Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) tags to iPods and laptop computers.
Recently, Kippelen and colleagues have developed a new approach to creating organic solar cells. Using pentacene, they've been able to convert sunlight to electricity with high efficiency.
"We've demonstrated that using a crystalline organic film, pentacene, is a promising new approach to developing organic solar cells," said Bernard Kippelen, professor in the Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics and the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech. "We've been able to convert solar energy into electricity with up to 3 percent efficiency. We believe that we should reach 5 percent in the near future."
What makes pentacene such a good material for organic solar cells, Kippelen explained, is that, unlike many of the other materials being studied for use in these cells, it's a crystal. The crystal structure of molecules joined together in a regular pattern makes it easier for electricity to move through it than some other organic materials, which are more amorphous.
Once fully developed, organic solar cells could revolutionize the power industry. Their flexibility and minimal weight will allow them to be placed on almost anything from tents that would provide power to those inside, to clothing that would power personal electronic devices.