Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Graphene organic photovoltaics: Flexible material only a few atoms thick may offer cheap solar power

Date:
July 24, 2010
Source:
University of Southern California
Summary:
A research team has produced flexible transparent carbon atom films that the researchers say have great potential for a new breed of solar cells.

A flow of methane and hydrogen gas mixture deposits carbon atoms as graphene on a nickel plate. The graphene later is then transferred to a plastic sheet, which is then incorporated into an organic photo voltaic (OPV) cell.
Credit: USC Viterbi School of Engineering

A University of Southern California team has produced flexible transparent carbon atom films that the researchers say have great potential for a new breed of solar cells.

"Organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells have been proposed as a means to achieve low cost energy due to their ease of manufacture, light weight, and compatibility with flexible substrates," wrote Chongwu Zhou, a professor of electrical engineering in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, in a paper recently published in the journal ACS Nano.

The technique described in the article describes progress toward a novel OPV cell design that has significant advantages, particularly in the area of physical flexibility.

A critical aspect of any OPV photo-electronic device is a transparent conductive electrode through which light can couple with active materials to create electricity. The new work indicates that graphene, a highly conductive and highly transparent form of carbon made up of atoms-thick sheets of carbon atoms, has high potential to fill this role.

While graphene's existence has been known for decades, it has only been studied extensively since 2004 because of the difficulty of manufacturing it in high quality and in quantity.

The Zhou lab reported the large scale production of graphene films by chemical vapor deposition three years ago. In this process, the USC engineering team creates ultra thin graphene sheets by first depositing carbon atoms in the form of graphene films on a nickel plate from methane gas.

Then they lay down a protective layer of thermo plastic over the graphene layer, and then dissolve the nickel underneath in an acid bath. In the final step they attach the plastic-protected graphene to a very flexible polymer sheet, which can then be incorporated into a OPV cell.

The USC team has produced graphene/polymer sheets ranging in sizes up to 150 square centimeters that in turn can be used to create dense arrays of flexible OPV cells.

These OPV devices convert solar radiation to electricity, but not as efficiently as silicon cells. The power provided by sunlight on a sunny day is about 1000 watts per meter square. "For every 1000 watts of sunlight that hits a one square meter area of the standard silicon solar cell, 14 watts of electricity will be generated," says Lewis Gomez De Arco, a doctoral student and a member of the team that built the graphene OPVs. "Organic solar cells are less efficient; their conversion rate for that same one thousand watts of sunlight in the graphene-based solar cell would be only 1.3 watts."

But what graphene OPVs lack in efficiency, they can potentially more than make for in lower price and, greater physical flexibility. Gomez De Arco thinks that it may eventually be possible to run printing presses laying extensive areas covered with inexpensive solar cells, much like newspaper presses print newspapers.

"They could be hung as curtains in homes or even made into fabric and be worn as power generating clothing. I can imagine people powering their cellular phone or music/video device while jogging in the sun," he said.

The USC researchers say graphene OPVs would be major advance in at least one crucial area over a rival OPV design, one based on Indium-Tin-Oxide (ITO). In the USC team's tests, ITO cells failed at a very small angle of bending, while the graphene-based cells remained operational after repeated bending at much larger stress angles. This would give the graphene solar cells a decided advantage in some uses, including the printed-on-fabric applications proposed by the USC team.

Zhou and the other researchers on the USC team -- which included Yi Zhang, Cody W. Schlenker, Koungmin Ryu, and Mark E. Thompson in addition to Gomez de Arco -- are excited by the potential for this technology.

Their paper concludes that their approach constitutes a significant advance toward the production of transparent conductive electrodes in solar cells. "CVD graphene meets the most important criteria of abundance, low cost, conductivity, stability, electrode/organic film compatibility, and flexibility that are necessary to replace ITO in organic photovoltaics, which may have important implications for future organic optoelectronic devices."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southern California. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lewis Gomez De Arco, Yi Zhang, Cody W. Schlenker, Koungmin Ryu, Mark E. Thompson, Chongwu Zhou. Continuous, Highly Flexible, and Transparent Graphene Films by Chemical Vapor Deposition for Organic Photovoltaics. ACS Nano, 2010; 4 (5): 2865 DOI: 10.1021/nn901587x

Cite This Page:

University of Southern California. "Graphene organic photovoltaics: Flexible material only a few atoms thick may offer cheap solar power." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100723095430.htm>.
University of Southern California. (2010, July 24). Graphene organic photovoltaics: Flexible material only a few atoms thick may offer cheap solar power. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 14, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100723095430.htm
University of Southern California. "Graphene organic photovoltaics: Flexible material only a few atoms thick may offer cheap solar power." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100723095430.htm (accessed September 14, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Frustration As Drone Industry Outpaces Regulation In U.S.

Frustration As Drone Industry Outpaces Regulation In U.S.

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) U.S. firms worry they’re falling behind in the marketplace as the FAA considers how to regulate commercial drones. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Gun Innovators Fear Backlash From Gun Rights Advocates

Smart Gun Innovators Fear Backlash From Gun Rights Advocates

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) Winners of a contest for smart gun design are asking not to be named after others in the industry received threats for marketing similar products. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Have Captured The Sound Of An Atom

Scientists Have Captured The Sound Of An Atom

Newsy (Sep. 12, 2014) Scientists have captured the sound of a single atom by measuring its vibrations. We can't hear it, but it's reportedly the faintest sound possible. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Flare Surges Off Sun

Solar Flare Surges Off Sun

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 11, 2014) NASA captures video of a significant flare surging off the sun. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins