Green Energy from Organic and Printed Electronics

Renewable energies play a decisive role in the energy concepts of the future. However, their potential will remain largely limited as long as the sun’s energy can neither be stored nor utilized on a large scale. That is where organic materials offer revolutionary solutions. Current trends and the latest developments in this field will be on display at LOPE-C in Frankfurt, Germany from June 23-25, 2009.

The European Union has set ambitious goals for itself. Member countries aim to reduce their own carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by one-fifth versus 1990 by the year 2020. Other industrialized nations such as the USA shall even be encouraged to produce 30 percent less CO2. None of this can be achieved without increased use of renewable energies.

Theoretically there is an abundance of such energy. For instance, the sun sends more energy to earth in 30 minutes than the human population can use in one year. Unfortunately, this energy cannot be captured on a large scale, and the photovoltaically produced power cannot be stored long-term.

Large-area Power Generation with Organic Solar Cells

Organic materials can solve this dilemma. For example, organic solar cells enable the use of building rooftops and facades for power generation. The cells consist of a flexible, light-weight film substrate on which plastics, so-called polymers, are printed; continuous printing processes allow extremely cost-effective production (see background information). “In a few years, organic photovoltaics will potentially be produced at costs of less than 50 Euro Cents per watt peak“, says Christoph Brabec, Chief Technology Officer at US-based Konarka Technologies, Inc. A watt peak (WP) is defined as a photovoltaic cell’s peak output at maximum solar irradiation. “That would make organic photovoltaics much less expensive than comparable technologies.”

According to their own reports, Konarka opened the world’s largest plant for printed solar cells in New Bedford, Massachusetts in October 2008. In the future, cells with a total capacity of one Giga-Wattpeak will be produced, an output 1.5 times that of a typical hard coal-fired power station. In the near term, the cells are meant to power small, mobile end-user devices. In the future, products will be commercially available on building rooftops and facades from which energy can be fed into public grids. The Organic Electronics Association (OE-A), a working group within the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) that represents the entire supply chain of organic and printed electronics with more than 120 member companies, will introduce a new applications- and technology-roadmap that presents an outlook on future developments of organic photovoltaics at LOPE-C from June 23rd to June 25th, 2009.

Long-Term Storage with Synthetic Fuels

Additionally, researchers all over the world are looking for solutions that will allow the sun’s energy to be stored long-term in the form of synthetic fuels. The idea: to artificially recreate the biochemical process of photosynthesis, also known for making plants grow, in order to combine CO2 and water into hydrocarbons such as methane. Serdar Sariciftci, Professor at the Linzer Institut für Organische Solarzellen (LIOS), wants to use the physical properties of organic semiconductors for this process. "We have achieved production of electrical energy from sunlight with organic solar cells.", he says. "We will now attempt to transform sunlight into chemical energy through artificial photosynthesis."

Trends and Technologies on Display at LOPE-C

Professor Sariciftci will give a keynote address on the topic 'Green Energy' at LOPE-C. In addition, there will be numerous presentations on the topic of 'Organic Photovoltaics'. LOPE-C – the Large-area, Organic & Printed Electronics Convention will take place as a conference with an accompanying exhibition at the Convention Center, Messe Frankfurt, Germany from June 23-25, 2009. The OE-A has invited experts from business and research to this world premiere to exchange knowledge and ideas on opportunities, products and developments in the field of organic and printed electronics.

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