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Organic photovoltaics: think long

13 Apr 2009

US-European R&D collaboration seeks to extend the lifetime of organic solar cells.

US speciality chemicals and materials group Cytec Industries has teamed up with IMEC, a leading European nanoelectronics research centre, to commercialize enabling technologies for extended-lifetime organic photovoltaic devices. The two-year initiative is co-sponsored by the Institute for the Promotion of Innovation by Science and Technology, Flanders.

To date, the bulk of the international research effort on organic solar cells has focused on increases in conversion efficiency. However, the operational lifetime of organic solar cells must also be improved to beyond five years – a challenge that is now being tackled by Cytec and IMEC.

The partners will proceed on twin research tracks. First, intrinsic stability issues of organic solar cells will be addressed by stabilizing the nanomorphology of the active material blend. IMEC has already shown that the photoactive blend of conjugated polymers and fullerene acceptor molecules is prone to phase segregation under the influence of time and temperature.

Concurrently, the ingress of extrinsic degradation sources of oxygen and water vapour will be suppressed by the development of an appropriate barrier and encapsulation technology. The project will exploit Cytec's core competencies of interfacial engineering and coating technology and IMEC's background in organic solar-cell processing and analysis.

Martin Court, Cytec's vice-president of R&D, speciality chemicals, is "convinced that Cytec's capabilities in coatings, adhesives, inks and energy curing technology combined with IMEC's processing and technology capabilities will make the project a success".

• Last week, IMEC unveiled plans for a €70m expansion of its R&D facilities. The investment will fund an extra 2800 m2 of lab space and 300 new jobs to support research on 22 nm CMOS and beyond, low-cost high-efficiency solar cells and biomedical electronics.

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