A Korean research team led by Kim Bum-joon, professor of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Kim Tae-su, professor of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), successfully developed a tech to make a next-gen organic solar cell necessary for flexible and wearable devices. Using a polymer instead of fullerene, the new solar cell is 60 times as stretchable and 470 times as durable as conventional ones.
The research team further increased the possibility of the commercialization of organic solar cells, which are receiving a lot of attention as the source of energy for next-gen flexible and wearable devices, like flexible displays and smart glasses. Organic solar cells refer to solar cells most made by organic materials (carbon compounds) rather than inorganic ones.
Organic solar cells are more flexible and lighter than inorganic ones, since the former is based on a light and flexible organic film. They are drawing a lot of attention, owing to superb absorbance and low manufacturing costs. Existing organic solar cells are efficient but easily breakable, since fullerene is used. Due to a lack of durability, it has been difficult to commercialize them in order to make flexible devices.
On the other hand, it has been anticipated that using a polymer other than fullerene in an organic solar cell would make it possible to maintain high efficiency and greatly improve the durability of an organic solar cell, thanks to the flexibility of a polymer and an entangled effect between polymer chains. An entangled effect refers to an effect that greatly increases the ability to withstand power from the outside and the force of restoration, since long polymer chains are entangled with each other.
Professor Kim Bum-joon said, “Through this study, our research team confirmed that a polymer can increase the efficiency of solar cells and drastically improve the mechanical characteristics of devices.” He added, “I think that polymer-based solar cells can expedite the commercialization of a variety of attachable and portable devices, which will have ripple effects on the industry.”
The research findings were first published online on Oct. 9 by Nature Communications, a bi-monthly scientific journal published by the Nature Publishing Group.