Ultrathin and lightweight organic solar cells with high flexibility ©

Extreme bending flexibility demonstrated by wrapping a solar cell around a 35-μm-radius human hair. ©
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:: JKU Researchers Develop the World’s Lightest Solar Cells

+ 26.04.2012 + Research cooperation between scientists at the Johannes Kepler University Linz and the University of Tokyo (Japan) has led to a revolution in the area of flexible organic solar cells.

The new solar cells feature active, energy producing elements that make up one-third of the cell and the underlying substrate, primarily plastic film, making up the other two-thirds. Substrates in conventional cells of this kind previously made up 99% of the cell. Dr. Martin Kaltenbrunner (Institute of Experimental Physics) remarked, “In regards to our organic solar cells, this is record-breaking.


The new cells produce 10 watts per gram - something never before attained.” Together with his colleagues Dr. Matthew White and Eric Glowacki and under the direction of professors Takao Someya, Niyazi Serdar Sariciftci and Siegfried Bauer, the researcher has set the benchmark.


High-Tech on the Micrometer Scale

Organic solar cells still cannot keep up with the efficiency of silicium-based systems. “However the distinct advantage lies in its unbeatable efficiency to weight ratio.” The solar cell system weighs four grams per square meter. No wonder: the cells are only 2 micrometers thin – like “spider silk”, said Dr. Kaltenbrunner. In addition, the cells are highly flexible as well as stretchable.


Many Areas of Application

The ultrathin, lightweight solar cells could be used in the field of robotics, in manufacturing synthetic skin, and on electronic textiles. Dr. Kaltenbrunner remarked: “In all of these areas it is important that cells not only be highly efficient, but also light and flexible. There are many areas in which rigid and inelastic cells are inapplicable.” The JKU is also continuing its research with follow-up projects. In regards to the significance of innovative research in economic terms, Dr. Kaltenbrunner added: “The basic system can also be applied to electrical circuitry which would be something that the industrial sector, for example, would take interest in.”


Researchers have developed flexible, ultrathin and highly efficient cells. The results were recently published in the renowned scientific journal “Nature Communications”


Johannes Kepler University Linz 2012

Christian Savoy | Translation: N. Lichtenberger

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