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Superior Architecture for Organic Solar Cells Mimics Grass

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 11:05AM

Mistakes happen to everyone, so what is important is to learn from the mistake and move on. A student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst learned this lesson perhaps better than most as a mistake led to quite a discovery. Researchers at the university have been looking for a way to produce the optimal polymer architecture for organic solar cells, and by a student accidentally using the wrong substrate, they have found it.

Organic solar cells are a promising technology that could potentially out compete modern, inorganic solar cells with comparable or better efficiency, but at a lower cost and greater flexibility. They do have problems though, such as discontinuous pathways that cause energy loss. This can be overcome with the right architecture though and a student produced it while trying to grow polymer crystals, on the wrong substrate. By accident the student had used graphene as the substrate, and the mistake was not realized for over a week, when the sample was put under a scanning electron microscope. At that time not only was the mistake found but so were vertically stacked crystals, resembling blades of grass.

This vertically stacked structure addresses the problem of discontinuous pathways because of how electrons prefer to travel in certain directions through the crystals. This discovery may not just impact solar cells, but could find applications in batteries and vertical transistors as well.

Source: University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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