Carbon Trust and the University of Cambridge launch new UK solar company

Its aim is to focus on developing and manufacturing high performance, lower cost plastic solar cells for high-growth volume markets.

Spun-out from the Carbon Trust’s Cambridge University-TTP Advanced Photovoltaic Research Accelerator, this latest commercial phase will look at developing product prototypes, backed by a £4.5 million investment from the Carbon Trust and international specialty chemicals company, Rhodia.

With improvements in efficiency and lifetime, breakthroughs in organic photovoltaic (OPV) technology could provide solar power at a price substantially lower than that offered by first and second generation technologies for certain applications, say Cambridge Enterprise and the Carbon Trust. They add that this could serve to open up new markets for solar.

Eight19’s focus on the low cost potential of solar cells made with semiconducting plastics (also known as OPV) is said to be built on the Cavendish Laboratory’s capability to develop techniques for fabricating large scale plastic electronic devices on flexible materials using roll-to-roll processes: the company will continue to be actively engaged with the Cavendish and its research output.

The Eight19 team has additionally said it is pursuing a design-for-manufacture strategy that focuses on the "unique attributes" of OPV, combining both specific product performance characteristics and low cost of energy.

Unlike other more familiar thin film solar platforms, Cambridge Enterprise and the Carbon Trust say organic solar cells are not inherently limited by constraints around material supply and toxicity, and benefit from a number of fundamental advantages. These include potentially "very low cost" production enabled by low temperature and high throughput processing "typical of plastic films". They continue by saying that organic solar cells potentially deliver further value throughout the supply chain, from ease of installation for construction companies to producers seeking simplified manufacturing integration.

Dr Robert Trezona, head of research and development at the Carbon Trust commented: "The launch of Eight19 and the deployment of low cost organic solar cells could help to revolutionize solar power production by opening up new markets. Cost reduction through the development of advanced technology and innovative design are key to driving forward mass production and making solar power more affordable."

Eight19, so called as it takes eight minutes and 19 seconds for light to travel from the sun to the earth, has been created in partnership with Professor Sir Richard Friend, Professor Henning Sirringhaus and Professor Neil Greenham of Cambridge’s internationally renowned Cavendish Laboratory, and technology development company TTP.