Propelled by aggressive R&D activities, third generation photovoltaics (PVs) are poised to take a huge leap forward. The exploratory mass production of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC)-powered consumer durables is likely to alter the future course of research in this segment.
Some of the first commercial third generation products are DSSC-powered backpacks and mobile phones. Several developers are working to take advantage of DSSCs' ability to power various non-grid-based lighting applications.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Third Generation Photovoltaics: Strategic R&D Portfolio Management, finds that consumer electronics appear to be a near-term market for third generation PV technologies, while the on-grid market offers a longer-term opportunity for third generation PV technologies.
"G24 Innovations, one of the DSSC manufacturers, has recently announced its mass scale production of DSSC modules to a Hong Kong-based consumer electronics bag manufacturer," notes Technical Insights Senior Research Analyst Avinash Iyer. "The PV panels will be integrated with consumer durables such as backpacks; these panels harvest energy when used outdoors, and repower mobile electronic devices such as mobile phones, e-books, cameras, and portable light emitting diode (LED) lighting systems."
Sony has developed a DSSC-powered lantern, while Corus and Konarka are experimenting with their products in roof-integrated photovoltaics (RIPV) applications.
There are many formidable challenges for manufacturers of organic photovoltaic (OPV) devices to overcome. Topping the list is the power conversion efficiency (PCE). Though the performance shown under standard test conditions in laboratories is satisfying, it cannot be the sole parameter to consider large-scale production. Some of the fundamental issues that must be addressed are bandgap, interfaces, and charge transport.
If these bottlenecks are dealt with, the prospects of gaining a better share of the commercial market will be enhanced. The optimum PCE values are yet to be achieved because the methods to allow morphology control and the principles that underpin them are still being heavily researched upon. Many researchers have traditionally avoided non-aqueous dispersions containing inorganic nanoparticles and hydrophobic polymers. Depletion aggregation is a barrier in optimizing morphologies for the nanocomposite photoactive layers.
"There are many methodologies followed in various R&D organizations in improving the performance of a third generation photovoltaic cell such as a hybrid polymer solar cell," says Iyer. "One of the possible ways of improvising could be to enable moderately large nanorods to be distributed within hole transporting polymer films without using methods that result in the nanoparticles being encapsulated by a non-conducting layer."
Studies show that zinc oxide (ZnO) dispersions reveal that co-solvent compositions could be used to control the interfacial structure and improve nanoparticle dispersion. Research on phase diagrams for the nanoparticle, polymers, and co-solvent dispersions for hybrid polymer solar cell systems could help improve solar cells.
As concerns over energy savings escalate, several initiatives have been undertaken to promote a greener environment. Solar PVs are receiving significant attention in terms of investments from government and private sectors. Numerous joint development programs have been launched to expand the capabilities of current generation PV technologies as well as next generation PV.
Higher efficiency, enhanced stability, extended lifetime, reduced cost, and material performance are some of the core areas of research for the joint ventures pursued by both government and private organizations. Focus on optimization of the production process, prototype development, effective encapsulation, large-area, and large-scale manufacturing, as well as streamlining distribution will put the market on the fast track to progress.