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Renewable energy science fair project:
Improving Efficiency of Organic Solar Cells Using Lead Phthalocyanine

Science Fair Project Information
Title: Improving Efficiency of Organic Solar Cells Using Lead Phthalocyanine
Subject: Renewable Energy
Grade level: High School - Grades 10-12
Academic Level: Ordinary
Project Type: Experimental
Cost: Medium
Awards: Google Science Fair 2011 finalist
Affiliation: Google Science Fair
Year: 2011
Concepts: Power-conversion efficiency
Description: This project focuses on the molecule lead phthalocyanine (PbPc) paired with carbon fullerene in organic photovoltaic devices (OPV) that collect near-infrared spectrum light. Three different OPV architectures - planar, mixed, and graded - were implemented to find which one produced the highest efficiency.
Link: http://sites.google.com/site/improvingopvdevicesusingpbpc/home
Short Background

Organic Solar Cell

Organic solar cells and polymer solar cells are built from thin films (typically 100 nm) of organic semiconductors including polymers, such as polyphenylene vinylene and small-molecule compounds like copper phthalocyanine (a blue or green organic pigment) and carbon fullerenes and fullerene derivatives such as PCBM. Energy conversion efficiencies achieved to date using conductive polymers are low compared to inorganic materials. However, it has improved quickly in the last few years and the highest NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) certified efficiency has reached 8.3% for the Konarka Power Plastic. In addition, these cells could be beneficial for some applications where mechanical flexibility and disposability are important.

Cells with phthalocyanine as an organic layer were investigated at the early stage. As early as 1958, Kearns et al. reported the photovoltaic effect or the creation of voltage of a cell based on magnesium phthalocyanine a macrocyclic compound having an alternating nitrogen atom-carbon atom ring structure (MgPh), which had a photovoltage of 200mV. Ghosh et al. investigated the Al/MgPh/Ag cell, and obtained photovoltaic efficiency of 0.01% under illumination at 690 nm.

Copper phthalocyanine, often referred to as CuPc, is also a leading material used in organic solar cell research.

Bilayer organic photovoltaic cells: This type of organic photovoltaic cell contains two different layers in between the conductive electrodes. These two layers of materials have differences in electron affinity and ionization energy, therefore electrostatic forces are generated at the interface between the two layers. The materials are chosen properly to make the differences large enough, so these local electric fields are strong, which may break up the excitons much more efficiently than the single layer photovoltaic cells do. The layer with higher electron affinity and ionization potential is the electron acceptor, and the other layer is the electron donor. This structure is also called planar donor-acceptor heterojunctions.

Bulk heterojunction photovoltaic cells: In this type of photovoltaic cell, the electron donor and acceptor are mixed together, forming a polymer blend. If the length scale of the blend is similar to the exciton diffusion length, most of the excitons generated in either material may reach the interface, where excitons break efficiently. Electrons move to the acceptor domains then were carried through the device and collected by one electrode, and holes were pulled in the opposite direction and collected at the other side.

Graded Heterojunction photovoltaic cells: In this type of photovoltaic cell, the electron donor and acceptor are mixed together, like in the bulk heterojunction, but in such as way that the gradient is gradual. This architecture combines the short electron travel distance in the dispersed heterojunction with the advantage of the charge gradient of the bilayer technology.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_solar_cell

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)

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