Building plastic solar cells

Environmentally friendly solar panels may be an affordable alternative to conventional power sources within the next ten years.


Environmentally friendly solar panels may be an affordable alternative to conventional power sources within the next ten years, as a result of a new project launched this week.


The £5m project to develop inexpensive organic photovoltaic (PV) cells will be led by Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory in collaboration with The Technology Partnership, with £5m funding from the Carbon Trust.


Cambridge University and TTP aim to accelerate the commercialisation of organic PV by several years by combining intellectual property, scientific expertise and manufacturing capabilities. A core aim is to create photovoltaic modules with five per cent efficiency and a lifetime of five years that can be manufactured on a roll-to-roll web up to one metre wide.


Once made, these sheets of PV film, made from a polymer base, will be able to sit on a range of surfaces, including windows or building roofs, to capture solar energy. Simpler applications could also include chargers for mobile telephone or laptop computers.


The Carbon Trust’s investment will cover the initial three years of what’s expected to be a longer development time.