A U.S. company, Solarmer, is developing plastic solar cells for portable electronic devices. Technology for the project was invented at the University of Chicago. A commercial-grade prototype will be ready later this year, said the vice president of IP development and strategic alliances at Solarmer.
The prototype measures eight square inches (50 square centimeters) and is expected to achieve 8 percent efficiency with a lifetime of at least three years. New materials with higher efficiencies are considered a key in the industry. Plastic solar cells are behind in terms of the efficiency … for now.
The invention is a new semiconductor material called PTB1. The material converts sunlight into electricity. The active layer of PTB1 is a mere 100 nanometers thick. The width is approximately 1,000 atoms. Synthesizing the material even in very small amounts is a time-consuming, multi-step process.
The University of Chicago licensed the patent rights to the technology to Solarmer last year in September.
Solarmer will sponsor research at the university. The advantage of this technology – simple, says the pair.