PV Science

Exploring Carbon Nanotubes for Future PV Devices
Technologies PV - Applications
Vendredi, 04 Janvier 2013 00:00

Researchers at the University of Würzburg, Germany will spend the next four years exploring the potential of carbon nanotubes (CNT) for use in new types of photovoltaic devices, with special focus on developing novel functional composite systems. Unique qualities have scientists speculate whether carbon nanotube material could deliver devices with power conversion efficiencies not only competitive to organic photovoltaics but with added benefits, such as greater long term stability, improved charge and excitation transport properties and possibly better light absorption properties in the near infrared range of the solar spectrum.

Würzburg’s research effort is part of the new European collaborative POCAONTAS (Polymer-Carbon Nanotubes Active Systems for Photovoltaics). We  hope to provide an answer to the question whether CNT-polymer materials research should be pursued further for the development of new energy harvesting applications or if the materials are perhaps of academic interest, says Tobias Hertel, Professor in the University of Würzburg’s School of Chemistry and Pharmacy.

What makes pure carbon nanotubes intriguing candidates for solar energy conversion applications, according to Hertel, are properties such as high photostability, excellent chemical and thermal stability, favourable optical properties in the near infrared range of the solar spectrum, outstanding energy and charge transport properties, and large aspect ratios. “In short, we believe that they have unique potential, and within this consortium we work to find out how difficult it is to realize that potential. Are there any unforeseen obstacles — there usually are! — and if so, can they be overcome with reasonable effort?” the researcher wonders.

Hertel’s preliminary devices use fullerenes as electron transport layer and to form the interface with carbon nanotubes where charge separation occurs. His team will furthermore explore whether electrodes might be replaced by carbon, too, in the form of graphene or carbon nanotubes. They will also focus on functional composite systems, meaning that the properties of the components (carbon nanotubes and polymers) will be tailored to fulfil certain functions within the planned devices. “Carbon nanotubes can be chosen depending on their specific optical properties, depending on how much light absorption in the near infrared is desired or where we would like to have the strongest absorption in the visible range of the spectrum. Polymers can be tailored to become electron or hole acceptors or donors or have specific properties that support desirable thin-film morphologies,” Hertel explains.

As mentioned, various research teams around the world are focusing on carbon nanotubes in solar applications. Hertel believes that what POCAONTAS brings to the table is “the combined expertise of a consortium of interconnected groups with a broad spectrum of complementary expertise and skills that are required to make such a project a success.” The shared objective is “to help us all understand the photophysical properties and help optimize performance, based on the insights that spectroscopy and theory can deliver into the inner workings and microscopic processes taking place in our materials.” What is more, the consortium has industrial partners lined up to use the materials in prototype devices. “We are particularly excited to have a former research lab of Konarka (a former OPV manufacturer) on board, which is now with Belectric, the worlds leader in engineering and construction of photovoltaic systems,” Hertel says, adding, “We primarily run a curiosity-driven research endeavour that is linked to development capabilities at the back end.”

Going forward, Hertel says he and his collaborators are “stoked to finally start developing the new materials and test the ideas we have been talking about for some time now. We are about to exchange the first batches of nanotube-polymer materials among the consortium members to get everyone started working on them. The next months will be exciting as the research effort is being ramped up. I expect a lot of hard work but also exciting discoveries to lie ahead of us.”

Source: Soalr Novus Today



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