UCSB Engineering

October 18, 2009

UC Santa Barbara Scientists Make Major Advance in Organic Polymer Production for Solar Cells

Gains in speed, quality, and current over conventional production techniques hold promise for both research and commercial production.

Santa Barbara, CA—October 18, 2009—Professor Guillermo Bazan and a team of postgraduate researchers at UC Santa Barbara's Center for Polymers and Organic Solids (CPOS) today announced a major advance in the synthesis of organic polymers for plastic solar cells. Bazan's team:

  • reduced reaction time by 99%, from 48 hours to 30 minutes, and
  • more than tripled average molecular weight of the polymers.

 

The reduced reaction time effectively cuts production time for the organic polymers by nearly 50%, since reaction time and purification time are approximately equal in the production process, in both laboratory and commercial environments.

 

The higher molecular weight of the polymers, reflecting the creation of longer chains of the polymers, has a major benefit in increasing current density in plastic solar cells by as much as a factor of more than four. Over polymer batches with varying average molecular weights, produced using varying combinations of the elements of the new methodology, the increase in current density was found to be approximately proportional to the increase in average molecular weight.

 

The methodology, detailed in a Nature Chemistry paper published online today and slated for later inclusion in the print publication, "will greatly accelerate research in this area," stated Bazan, "by making possible the rapid production of different batches of polymers for evaluation." He further noted, "We plan to take advantage of this approach both to generate new materials that will increase solar cell efficiencies and operational lifetimes, and to reevaluate previously-considered polymer structures that should exhibit much higher performance than they showed initially."

 

To make these gains, the team:

1.    Replaced conventional thermal heating with microwave heating,
2.    modified reactant concentrations, and
3.    varied the ratio of reactants by only 5% from the nominal 1:1 stoichiometric ratio normally employed in polymerization reactions.

 

Mike McGehee, Director of Stanford's Center for Advanced Molecular Photovoltaics, hailed Bazan's work, commenting, "Many synthetic chemists around the world are making copolymers with alternating donor and acceptors to attain low bandgaps. Most of them are having trouble attaining adequate molecular weight, so this new synthetic method that creates longer polymer chains is a real breakthrough. The reduction in synthesis time should also make it easier to optimize the chemical structure as the research moves forward and will ultimately reduce the manufacturing cost."


Bazan is a Professor of Chemistry and of Materials at UC Santa Barbara, and is co-director of CPOS and a faculty member at the NSF-funded Materials Research Laboratory

 

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About the Center for Polymers and Organic Solids
The Center for Polymers and Organic Solids (CPOS) at UC Santa Barbara is a widely multidisciplinary organization that focuses on the science and engineering of organic semiconducting and light-harvesting materials for plastic electronics and for biological sensors with heightened sensitivity.


About the College of Engineering at UC Santa Barbara
The College of Engineering at UC Santa Barbara is a global leader in materials science, bioengineering, chemical and computational engineering, nanotechnology, and physics. UCSB boasts five Nobel Laureates (four in sciences and engineering) and one winner of the prestigious international Millennium Technology Prize. Our students, faculty, and staff thrive in a uniquely-successful interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial culture. Our professors' research is among the most cited by their peers, evidence of the significance and relevance of their work.

   

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Related Links

Nature Chemistry paper

Center for Polymers and Organic Solids (CPOS)

Bazan Research Group

Bazan Personal Website

Media Contact

Tony Rairden
TRairden@Engineering.UCSB.edu
(805) 893-4301
 
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