UC Berkeley Researchers Develop Plastic Solar Cells

April 01, 2002 by Jeff Shepard

A team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley announced that they had come up with a first generation of plastic solar cells, which could someday replace the bulky and expensive silicon-based cells used widely now. The new plastic solar cells, made of tiny nanorods dispersed in plastic and sandwiched between electrodes, can be made "quick and dirty" in a laboratory beaker, without the need for clean rooms or vacuum chambers; produce about 0.7V; and can be painted onto just about any surface that provides power for a range of portable and wearable electronic devices.

"Our efficiency is not good enough yet by about a factor of 10, but this technology has the potential to do a lot better," stated Paul Alivisatos, a professor of chemistry who led the study. "There is a pretty clear path for us to take to make this perform much better. Today's high-efficiency solar cells require very sophisticated processing inside a clean room and complex engineering to make the semiconductor sandwiches. And because they are baked inside a vacuum chamber, they have to be made relatively small."