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A promising technology for consumer markets

Printed organic solar cells:

Published on 6 October 2016

Liten began conducting organic photovoltaic research in Saclay, France, in the 2000s. Today, our researchers are pursuing programs in organic PV at the National Institute for Solar Energy (INES). The components derived from this groundbreaking research are lightweight, thin, and flexible, lending themselves to new and innovative applications like self-powering mobile devices, outdoor public fixtures, textiles, design, and the Internet of Things.

Though the technology is still undergoing development to improve its performance, lifespan, and weather resistance, preliminary demonstrator modules are already being tested in Europe on large outdoor surfaces like party tents, inflatable structures, and exhibition pavilions, as well as on mobile devices.

Our researchers specialize in custom PV module development for niche markets, and can produce modules in various sizes, shapes, colors, and degrees of transparency. In June 2015, the world was introduced to its first multicolored plastic solar panel. The 15 x 15 cm2 panel possesses organic solar cells of different shapes and colors, all printed with inkjet technology on a flexible substrate. The panel depicts a camouflage pattern, so the technology clearly has potential military applications, but it could also be of interest in more mainstream markets, like advertising, graphics, or fashion. This multicolored module can reach 2.2% conversion efficiency per 100 cm2 (reaching 4%–4.5% in monochromatic modules). It was manufactured by DisaSolar, a France-based small business, in conjunction with the CNRS laboratory Xlim and Liten as part of Rapid, (a program that supports small businesses developing innovations with dual military and non-military applications—an initiative of the DGA, the R&D arm of France’s Ministry of Defense, and of the DGCIS, France’s Directorate-General for Competitiveness, Industry, and Services).

Liten’s research currently focuses on several areas:

  • Coating- and printing-based organic and hybrid solar module manufacturing processes; development of suitable materials compatible (in terms of formulation, environmental criteria, and rheological and physicochemical characteristics)  with manufacturing processes.  
  • Materials (adhesives, barrier films) and module encapsulation processes, with the goal of increasing module stability.
  • Advanced research to determine PV module stability in varying conditions (indoor/outdoor, variations in temperature and humidity) and to improve reliability.


The sum total of these factors determines the reliability, performance, and lifespan of organic solar cells. Our research and development in these areas has resulted in conversion efficiencies of 4.5% per 15 x 15 cm2 panel, with a life expectancy of over 5,000 hours under continuous illumination, proven by accelerated aging tests. Though this performance does not yet match that of traditional silicon-based photovoltaic technology, where module lifetimes can reach up to 25 years, the specificities listed above (flexibility, thinness, lightness, etc.) and the low production and installation costs nevertheless make the technology attractive for targeted uses and for the consumer market. Tomorrow, solar-enabled objects of all types will be a reality.  

BENEFITS

Features that respond to consumer market needs

  • Flexible, lightweight (less than 1 kg/m2), and thin (less than 1 mm), the modules are particularly suitable for integration onto surfaces with a small bend radius, such as films and textiles.
  • It is possible to tailor the modules’ color and transparency levels to customer needs, so the technology is suited for applications in fashion, home decor, and design.
  • Organic polymers are used instead of rare metals, yielding a technology that is less harmful to the environment than standard solar cells.
  • The technology requires relatively low CapEx, an important advantage for startups and other small businesses looking to enter the market.
  • As materials (particularly the inks) become standardized and mass-produced, low-cost processes will be developed, making the technology accessible to an even broader set of users.  
PROJECTS

  • ​OSCAR (Organic Solar Cells by ARmor), a project to develop solar modules using roll-to-roll processing in collaboration with Armor, a company specializing in the chemistry of inks and printing technologies (financed by Bpifrance, France’s public investment bank).
  • Collaboration with Vinci Technologies to develop an automated permeameter to characterize gas barrier films, as part of the EnThiPV consortium (a KIC InnoEnergy project).
  • A joint lab, Sollia, set up in 2012 with Arkema to produce gas barrier materials to encapsulate organic solar cells and organic electronics. Joint research is also being carried out under EU research projects X10D and Mathero.
  • Collaboration with DisaSolar on custom-made, multicolored organic solar modules, produced with inkjet printing as part of the Phasme project (Rapid DGA).

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • Around 20 researchers
  • 19 patents
  • ​Publications: 

-    Karpinski A, Berson S, Terrisse H, Mancini-Le Granvalet M, Guillerez S, Brohan L, Richard-Plouet M. September 2013. Anatase colloidal solutions suitable for inkjet printing: Enhancing lifetime of hybrid organic solar cells. Solar Energy Materials and Solar cells 116: 27–33.

-    Morlier A, Cros S, Garandet JP, Alberola N. August 2013. Gas barrier properties of solution processed composite multilayer structures for organic solar cells encapsulation. Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells 115: 93–99.

-    Nisato G, Klumbies H, Fahlteich J, Müller-Meskamp L, van de Weijer P, Bouten P, Boeffel C, Leunberger D, Graehlert W, Edge S, Cros S, Brewer P, Kucukpinar E, de Girolamo J, Srinivasan P. December 2014. Experimental comparison of high-performance water vapor permeation measurement methods. Organic Electronics: physics, materials, applications 15: 3746–3755.

-    Perrier G, de Bettignies R, Berson S, Lemaître N, Guillerez S. June 2012. Impedance spectrometry of optimized standard and inverted P3HT-PCBM organic solar cells.
Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells 101: 210–216.

-    Andersen TR, Dam HF, Hösel M, Helgesen M,  Carlé JE, Larsen-Olsen TT, Gevorgyan SA, Andreasen JW, Adams J, Li N, Machui F, Spyropoulos GD, Ameri T, Lemaître N, Legros M, Scheel A, Gaiser D, Kreul K, Berny S, Lozman OR, Nordman S, Välimäki M, Vilkman M, Søndergaard RR, Jørgensen M, Brabec CJ, Frederick CK. September 2014. Scalable, ambient atmosphere roll-to-roll manufacture of encapsulated large area, flexible organic tandem solar cell modules. Energy and Environmental Science 7: 2925–2933.

-    Lechêne B, Leroy J, Tosoni O, de Bettignies R, Perrier G. August 2014. Origin of the S-Shape upon Aging in Standard Organic Solar Cells with Zinc Oxide as Transport Layer. J. Phys. Chem. C 118 (35): 20132–20136.

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FACTS & FIGURES

  • Around 20 researchers
  • 19 patents