Startup develops printable,
low-cost solar cell
Peter Clarke1/18/2011 7:44 AM EST
LONDON – Oxford Photovoltaics Ltd.,
a company recently spun out from the University of Oxford has developed a solar cell technology that is manufactured from low-cost, abundant, non-toxic and non-corrosive materials and can be scaled to any volume.
The cells are printed onto glass or other surfaces, are available in a range of colors and could be ideal for new buildings where solar cells are incorporated into glazing panels and walls, according to Isis Innovation, Oxford’s technology transfer company, responsible for creating new technology companies based upon Oxford research.
Oxford PV is combining earlier research on artificial photosynthetic electrochemical solar cells and semiconducting plastics to create solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells that can be manufactured at low-cost.
There are many types of thin- and thick-film solar cell technology and many are hampered by either the relative scarcity and cost of materials or the cost of manufacture. Other dye-sensitized solar cells are being held back by the volatile nature of liquid electrolytes. Oxford PV’s technology replaces the liquid electrolyte with a solid organic semiconductor, enabling entire solar modules to be screen printed onto glass or other surfaces.
Green is the most efficient “semi-transparent” color for producing electricity, although red and purple also work well.
The materials used are plentiful, environmentally benign and very low cost.
Oxford PV predicts that the manufacturing costs of its product will be around 50 percent less than the current lowest-cost thin film technology and expects its new mechanism will eventually match the unsubsidized cost of electricity generated from fossil fuels.
“This technology is a breakthrough in this area. We’re working closely with major companies in the sector to demonstrate that we can achieve their expectations on economic and product lifetime criteria,” said Kevin Arthur, CEO of Oxford PV, in a statement issued by Isis Innovation.
The technology was developed by Henry Snaith, of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, who said: “One of the great advantages is that we can process it over large areas very easily. You don’t have to worry about extensive sealing and encapsulation, which is an issue for the electrolyte dye cell.”