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Researchers create most efficient organic solar cell certified to date

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Dr Roderick Mackenzie, from our Department of Engineering, has been a part of an international research team which has created the most efficient single-junction organic solar cell certified to date.

New developments

Energy prices have seen a sharp rise in recent months, which has highlighted the need to produce cheaper, more sustainable energy while transitioning towards net zero emissions by 2050. Solar and wind energy are expected to play a big part our future energy mix, and although the price of solar panels has dropped, solar cells are still relatively expensive.

The new solar cell created by the research team, led by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, has been produced by using low cost conducting materials and small molecules made from carbon instead of silicon which is usually used.

The development represents a potential step-change in the cost of solar energy and pushes the technology a step closer to commercialisation.

Understanding efficiency

Dr Mackenzie collaborated with Dr Jun Yan, at Imperial College London, after being contacted by the lead researchers to ask for assistance in understanding why the newly developed solar cell performed so well. Durham is known as a centre for excellence in computer modelling of novel devices.

The pair developed advanced computer models and were able to discover that the high efficiency is down to the intermolecular mixing of the two constituent materials, alongside their ability to absorb light.

The solar cell was recorded to have an efficiency of at least 19 per cent, which is very close to that of silicon-based cells which are around 23-24 per cent.

Further research work is required into longevity and to understand how these devices can be upscaled for mass manufacture. However, the future is looking bright for organic carbon-based solar cells.



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