New research findings contradict a fundamental assumption about the functioning of "organic" solar cells made of low-cost plastics, suggesting a new strategy for creating inexpensive solar technology. Because organic solar cells are flexible, they could find new applications that are unsuitable for rigid silicon cells such as photovoltaics integrated into buildings, and they have the potential to be lower-cost and less energy-intensive to manufacture than silicon devices.
The findings also suggest the design of organic solar cells can be simplified, representing a major potential innovation. Whereas conventional organic solar cells are made by mixing two types of polymers, the new design requires only one polymer. Findings also suggest that producing the cells out of purer polymers could result in more efficient solar cells.