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Organic solar for energy harvesting

Posted: 21 Jan 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solar organic? harvesting energy?

By Nagarajan Sridhar

How about wearing a jacket that could power your cell phone? Well, this may soon become a reality and not something just seen in a comic book or in a futuristic movie. Organic solar materials, woven into your jacket, may be the solution. Organic solar, also called thin-film plastics, which has been long considered promising for low (and ultra-low) power applications is gaining momentum. These materials functioning as light energy harvesters, both under sunlight and even under artificial light, has a huge number of applications ranging from portable, fabrics to home building, to name a few.

Thin-film plastics have been explored as a potential solar cell material for decades. However, they suffered from carrier mobility issues, which in turn results in a low efficiency. Over years of materials research, certain types of plastics classified as organic #LINKKEYWORD0# (OPVs) and dye-sensitized cells (DSCs) have emerged, that now appear to be poised for commercial solutions.

In addition, the manufacturing cost compared to that of crystalline solar cells is relatively low. They also have the advantage of being built on flexible substrates, making them suitable for the applications listed above. From a photo-voltaic perspective, the band-gap of these materials can be tuned, which implies that the light collection efficiency for a given wavelength can be maximized, depending on the application.

Most of the commercialization, that has sprung up recently, is based on collaborations between companies and universities. Konarka Technologies, a spin-off from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell is developing products for portable applications. There was a recent article about IBM and Harvard working together on energy harvesting to provide free computing power. Earlier, I had posted a blog on green networks in TInergy, where Nokia and Ericsson are exploring bio-plastics as a source for charging handsets.

Combining this technology to TI's ultra-low power portfolio, such as the MSP430 microcontrollers, could serve to strengthen our position as a major player in energy management.

- Nagarajan Sridhar is project manager, HPA at Texas Instruments. He is one of the power and energy experts featured regularly at TInergy.

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