Making Light Work

Physicists working with the University of Oxford’s spin-out company ‘Oxford Photovoltaics’ have developed an innovative new approach to solar cells. These thin film devices are […]

Physicists working with the University of Oxford’s spin-out company ‘Oxford Photovoltaics’ have developed an innovative new approach to solar cells. These thin film devices are made by screen printing light absorbing dyes onto surfaces such as glass, to which a layer of metal oxides has been added, to harness the sun’s energy. Dr Henry Snaith, whose research group developed the technology, said “One of the great advantages is that we can process it over large areas very easily”.

Current devices are expensive and often compromised by the scarcity of the materials used; the new technology gets around these problems by utilising cheap, readily available materials and removing the need for a liquid component to the cell. It is thought that the manufacturing costs of these devices could be up to 50% lower than the most up to date alternatives—an encouraging step in the hunt for viable green energy.

These new solar cells are brightly coloured, non-toxic, and show promising conversion efficiencies—a measure of how well the device turns solar energy into electricity. As a result they may be used in the future as glazing materials for modern housing.

Kevin Arthur, who heads up Oxford Photovoltaics, said “This technology is a breakthrough in this area. We’re working closely with major companies in the sector to demonstrate that we can achieve their expectations on
economic and product lifetime criteria”.

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