Hoping to reduce the cost of solar electricity, the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory has awarded $6 million in grants to fund advanced photovoltaics research at 11 universities and five companies. These researchers will be working to increase solar-cell efficiency and extend cell performance over time.
The University of Arizona, Tuscon, intends to develop devices based on self-assembling, discotic liquid-crystalline (LC) organic layers with unique columnar ordering properties. These LC materials show promise for solar-cell production because they can be wet-processed into large area panels. They can repair themselves and exhibit the high charge mobilities seen in organic single crystals as well.
The University of California, Santa Cruz, will study polymer-based photovoltaics that could be relatively inexpensive to produce. This technology would be compatible with liquid-based plastic processing. Its devices could be assembled onto plastic substrates under atmospheric conditions using standard printing technologies.
At Caltech, Pasadena, researchers are working on improving the efficiency of solar cells fabricated from dye-sensitized nanocrystalline titanium dioxide. By changing molecular components of the cell material, researchers will attempt to raise the solar cell's photovoltage while maintaining its high current output.
For details, see www.nrel.gov/hot-stuff/press/1301_6million.html.