Why polymer solar cells deserve their place in the sun

Three different mechanisms of plasmonic enhancement: (a) far-field scattering, (b) near-field enhancement by LSPR, and (c) near-field enhancement by SPP. Reprinted with permission from Nat. Mater. 9, 205 (2010). Copyright 2010 Nature Publishing Group.

Unlike traditional silicon solar cells, organic polymer solar cells (PSCs) may never cover the hillsides of a megawatt solar farm. But, these lightweight, flexible cells show potential to provide solar power to remote microwatt sensors, wearable technology and the Wi-Fi-connected appliances constituting the “internet of things.”

PSCs use organic polymers to absorb light and convert it into electricity. While PSCs cannot match the durability or efficiency of inorganic solar cells, the potential to mass-produce nontoxic, disposable solar panels using roll-to-roll production makes them attractive for additional applications. In a paper published this week in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, Paul Berger and Minjae Kim of Ohio State University review the latest advances and remaining challenges in PSC technology.

Research into PSCs has grown rapidly over the last two decades, generating increasing numbers of publications and patents. This emerging technology, however, is unlikely to replace traditional inorganic solar cells.

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