A brief history of the development of organic and polymeric photovoltaics

H. Spanggaard, Frederik C Krebs

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    In this paper an overview of the development of organic photovoltaics is given, with emphasis on polymer-based solar cells. The observation of photoconductivity in solid anthracene in the beginning of the 19th century marked the start of this field. The first real investigations of photovoltaic (PV) devices came in the 1950s, where a number of organic dyes, particularly chlorophyll and related compounds, were studied. In the 1980s the first polymers (including poly(sulphur nitride) and polyacetylene) were investigated in PV cells. However, simple PV devices based on dyes or polymers yield limited power conversion efficiencies (PCE), typically well below 0.1%. A major breakthrough came in 1986 when Tang discovered that bringing a donor and an acceptor together in one cell could dramatically increase the PCE to 1%. This concept of heterojunction has since been widely exploited in a number of donor-acceptor cells, including dye/dye, polymer/dye, polymer/polymer and polymer/fullerene blends. Due to the high electron affinity of fullerene, polymer/fullerene blends have been subject to particular investigation during the past decade. Earlier problems in obtaining efficient charge carrier separation have been overcome and PCE of more than 3% have been reported. Different strategies have been used to gain better control over the morphology and further improve efficiency. Among these, covalent attachment of fullerenes to the polymer backbone, creating so-called double-cable polymers, is the latest. The improved PCE of plastic solar cells combined with increased (shelf and operating) lifetime, superior material properties and available manufacturing techniques may push plastic PVs to the market place within a few years. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalSolar Energy Materials & Solar Cells
    Issue number2-3
    Pages (from-to)125-146
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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