Organic Photovoltaics

Photovoltaics are devices that convert light into electrical energy. Organic photovoltaics (OPV) are solar cells that use organic semiconductors, i.e., conductive organic polymers or small organic molecules, for light absorption and charge transport to produce electricity from sunlight. Thermo Fisher Scientific offers a broad range of products designed to support OPV research.

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Innovation and high performance

Because of the growing demand for clean energy resources, OPV research has progressed dramatically during the last decade, rapidly closing the gap with the relatively mature silicon-based technologies that have been the front-runners in bringing solar cell technology to market. Moreover, unlike silicon solar cells which are rigid, organic semiconductors are thin, light, flexible, and mechanically resistant—qualities that facilitate their usage in a multitude of shapes and research applications, and make OPVs easy and inexpensive to fabricate, such as on plastic substrates.

OPV architecture

In OPV architecture, the active layer is a blend of two organic semiconductors, known as the donor (p-type material) and the acceptor (n-type material), whose properties can be fine-tuned for specific needs (Figure 1). These are equivalent to the materials that provide the electrons and holes in silicon-based semiconductors, where electrons flow from minus to plus, and holes "flow" from plus to minus.

Visual representation of conventional OPV architecture

Figure 1. Conventional OPV architecture.

Many high-performance organic semiconductor materials are now available. For OPV devices to achieve high-performance, the n-type and the p-type materials must have compatible optical and electronic properties. Semiconductors with complementary absorptions will help to convert more photons and energy, and thus maximize the current produced. Fine-tuning the energy levels can increase the device voltage (Figure 2).

For organic compounds to become semiconductor materials, a high degree of conjugation is required, i.e., alternating single and double bonds that result in the electrons associated with the double bonds becoming delocalized across the entire length of the conjugation.

Organic semiconductor materials

The Thermo Scientific product portfolio includes a range of both n- and p-type organic semiconductor materials, purified to deliver optimal results.

Fullerene derivatives have traditionally performed very well as n-type materials. However, novel conjugated molecules have recently gained traction due to their increased performance and stability. n-Type polymers are also on the rise as an alternative.

Conjugated polymers are the most common materials, providing many of the desirable properties of OPV devices, such as mechanical robustness and flexibility, chemical stability, printability, and high photon absorption.

Ancillary products

Our product selection also includes the ancillary materials for producing OPV devices. These include interlayer, donor material for the active layer, electrode, and substrate materials, as well as the solvents and additives for processing. Also included is a wide range of heterocyclic building blocks such as numerous thiophene compounds and more.