New York: Using a food additive, a team of researchers has created environment-friendly plastic solar cells that can be manufactured at room temperature.
The efficient, semi-printed solar cells have implications for large-scale commercial production, said the researchers from North Carolina State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Two of the key advantages are that these cells can be mass produced in the open air environment and that the process doesn’t pose health or environmental hazards, said Long Ye, post-doctoral research scholar in physics at NC State.
Ye and his colleagues developed a semi-printed plastic solar cell that utilised o-methylanisole (o-MA) as the solvent.
O-MA is a commonly used flavouring agent in foods and is non-toxic to humans.
Plastic solar cells are popular because they are lightweight, flexible, transparent and inexpensive to manufacture.
Unfortunately, the halogen-containing solvents used in their manufacture are an obstacle to large-scale commercialisation.
These solvents are key to making sure that the solar cell’s morphology, or structure, maximises its energy efficiency. However, they are environmentally hazardous.
“Hopefully, this work can help pave the way for printing solar cells in ambient air (room temperature),” Ye added in a paper that appeared in the journal Chemistry of Materials.