German government, Merck launch organic PV R&D program

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Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding a new project to develop new materials to be used in organic photovoltaics along with 10 leading universities, research institutions, and companies working in various areas.

Pharmaceutical and chemical group Merck is coordinating the three-year, €16 million project. The Education and Research Ministry is putting up €8.2 million in funding for the project, known officially as Development of New Materials and Device Structures for Competitive Mass Production Methods and Applications of Organic Photovoltaics (POPUP). The remainder will be financed by the participating companies, while the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is providing €1 million.

The consortium intends to develop more efficient and more stable materials for low-cost, industrially applicable printing and coating methods as well as new architectures for flexible and rigid, semitransparent and non-transparent solar modules.

KIT’s work on the project will focus on the in-depth understanding and study of new component architectures for semi-transparent and non-transparent solar cells and modules in close collaboration with industry partners.

In the area of organic photovoltaics, KIT researchers are working on two objectives: full printability of solar cells and replacing indium tin oxide (ITO) as the electrode material. Instead, the scientists use conductive and transparent foils for flexible carriers. For glass carriers, they are studying the deposition of transparent electrodes from metallic microstructures and conductive buffer layers.

In addition, the KIT team is examining highly efficient semi-transparent solar cells in mini-modules made of organic semiconductors.

In the medium and long term, the industry partners plan to manufacture organic solar modules by competitive mass production methods. The solar modules will later be integrated into vehicles for electricity supply to onboard electronics, in buildings and glass facades, for energy supply of free-standing buildings and devices, emergency systems, transport and navigation aids.

The novel technologies will also be used for off-grid electricity supply in the leisure activity sector or for charging mobile consumer devices.