Canadian breakthrough with hybrid solar panels

A team of scientists from the University of Alberta and the National Institute of Nanotechnology (located in Edmonton, Alberta) announced they’ve improved the performance of plastic solar cells (hybrid organic solar cells) by 30%.  The team worked together for two years on the project and they expect that mass production of improved plastic solar cells is five to seven years away. Earlier this week the principal investigator, Jillian Buriak was named Canada Research Chair in Nanomaterials (my Feb. 23, 2009 posting) so this must be quite a week for her. From the press release, here’s her description of a solar cell structure and the project’s improvement,

“Consider a clubhouse sandwich, with many different layers. One layer absorbs the light, another helps to generate the electricity, and others help to draw the electricity out of the device. Normally, the layers don’t stick well, and so the electricity ends up stuck and never gets out, leading to inefficient devices. We are working on the mayonnaise, the mustard, the butter and other ‘special sauces’ that bring the sandwich together, and make each of the layers work together. That makes a better sandwich, and makes a better solar cell, in our case.”

The news release is here on Eureka Alert (I’m not sure how long this remains available) and there’s a bit more information on NanoWerk, Nanotechnology researchers improve performance of plastic solar cells. I don’t understand the ‘hybrid organic solar cell’ decription and I haven’t found an explanation in materials I’ve seen. If you’re interested in the research paper (Thienylsilane-Modified Indium Tin Oxide as an Anodic Interface in Polymer/Fullerene Solar Cells), it’s here at the American Chemical Society (ACS) but it is behind a paywall.

On a completely other note, there was an article on the BBC News site about researchers who report ‘Oldest English words’ identified.

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