Harvesting Prairie Sunshine: Innovative Organic Solar Cells
Dr. Tim Kelly’s research focuses on high efficiency organic solar cells. While the vast majority of solar cells around Saskatoon (such as the solar-powered trash compactors around campus) are based on silicon technology, these organic devices instead use small molecules and polymers to convert sunlight to electricity.
These plastic solar cells have many important qualities that may lead to innovative new products. The solar cells can be made transparent, colorful, and flexible. This allows them to be mounted in windows, on buildings, or even on clothing and accessories, enabling the technology to be incorporated into everyday life in a variety of innovative forms.
Dr. Kelly’s research approach is largely centered on his synthetic materials chemistry lab, which is responsible for making new organic semiconductors. He and his team are also exploring entirely new ways of creating organic solar cells with higher efficiencies, including the use of gold and silver nanoparticles to maximize the absorption of sunlight. They are also focused on improving the lifespan of the devices; their poor longevity is a critical barrier to commercial viability that they are hoping to overcome.