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Efficient Plastic Solar Cells

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
Negating Energy Losses in Organic Photovoltaics Using Photonic Structures
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$745,565
Location: 
Golden, CO
Project Term: 
02/01/2013 to 04/30/2014
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Photovoltaic (PV) solar electric systems are a promising clean energy alternative to traditional sources of electricity generation, such as coal-burning power plants. One of the biggest obstacles to the widespread deployment of PV systems is the fact that they are not cost competitive with conventional sources of energy generation. New PV technologies must improve energy conversion efficiency while driving down costs in order to make them competitive with traditional power generation methods and help position the U.S. as a leader in the global renewable energy industry.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado (CU) are developing a way to enhance plastic solar cells to capture a larger part of the solar spectrum. Conventional plastic solar cells can be inexpensive to fabricate but do not efficiently convert light into electricity. NREL is designing novel device architecture for plastic solar cells that would enhance the utilization of parts of the solar spectrum for a wide array of plastic solar cell types. To develop these plastic solar cells, NREL and CU will leverage computational modeling and advanced facilities specializing in processing plastic PVs. NREL's plastic solar cell devices have the potential to exceed the power conversion efficiencies of traditional plastic solar cells by up to threefold.
Potential Impact: 
If successful, NREL's approach would achieve 3 times the efficiency of traditional plastic PVs, enabling widespread market adoption of this low-cost, clean, and renewable electricity source.
Security: 
Cost-effective solar energy would increase U.S. renewable energy use and help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Environment: 
Replacing energy systems powered by fossil fuels would provide an immediate decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, of which electricity generation accounts for over 40%.
Economy: 
Cost-effective renewable energy alternatives would reduce fuel prices and stabilize electricity rates for consumers. Integrating these renewable technologies directly into buildings will reduce stress on the electric grid.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Ilan Gur
Project Contact: 
Dr. Nikos Kopidakis
Partners
University of Colorado, Boulder
Release Date: 
11/28/2012