Silicon has long since been used in the manufacture of solar panels because it promised a relatively efficient way of converting sunlight into electricity. Even though it remains one of the most popular sources of renewable energy, its efficiency remains between 15% and 20%. In 2016, Japanese scientists reached a record of 26.6%. Researchers from the Nankai University in China claim to have found a more efficient way by using photovoltaics made from organic compounds. They are called Organic Photovoltaics (OPV).
Researchers were able to produce efficiencies of up to 25% with consistency with the OPVs. It is a significant leap since such efficiency levels over a 15 to 20-year lifespan can significantly bring down the price of electricity. All the traditional organic solar cells have had only about half of this value. We all know that electricity is nothing but the flow of electrons. Since conventional OPVs use materials in which molecules are loosely bound, they trap the electrons and obstruct their flow. But the Chinese researchers found a way to enhance the productivity. The scientists got around this problem by putting different layers of materials together. This absorbs sunlight of varying wavelengths better.
"We have two layers of active materials, each of which can absorb different wavelengths of light. That means you can use sunlight in the wider wavelengths or more efficiently and this can generate more current," said Dr. Yongsheng Chen from the Nankai University. Additionally, OPVs can be made of compounds that are soluble in ink and so, can be printed on flexible materials like rolls of thin plastic. They can also be coated on windows or on car roofs to generate electricity. This might very well be a new step in renewable power generation.