Filbert J. Bartoli, Chandler Weaver Chair and professor of electrical and computer engineering, has been studying ways to improve the performance of solar cells. For the journal Advanced Materials, he and his team (former student Prof. Qiaoqiang Gan of the University of Buffalo and Lehigh adjunct professor Zakya H. Kafafi) reviewed the state of research into a new breed of cell, the plasmonic-enhanced organic photovoltaic (OPV) devices.
Bartoli and researchers worldwide are pursuing the development of efﬁcient OPVs made up of polymers and small organic molecules that, if designed correctly, can be fabricated in bulk, potentially becoming as inexpensive as making paint. OPVs made from most molecular and polymeric materials are required to be very thin, due to the short range over which excitons can diffuse in these materials, and the low mobility of charge carriers which must reach the electrodes to generate current. However, at these thicknesses, the active light-harvesting layer of the cell is so thin it leads to poor solar light absorption and low power conversion efﬁciency.