Thursday, December 6, 2007

How solar power could become organic - and cheap

Three points.
1)This is where solar is going.
2)Neil Greenham is a quintessential scientist, see highlighted quote.
3)Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge.*
( 29 Nobel Prize winners)

From The Guardian:

Physicist Neil Greenham of Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory likes turning a good idea on its head. His PhD involved researching polymer light emitting diodes, since used for displays in some televisions, MP3 players and mobile phones. But then he joined a research group trying to use similar polymers to generate electricity from light. Now, more than a decade of pioneering work has resulted in an organic solar cell that doesn't use expensive silicon.

Conventional photovoltaic (PV) solar cells are made from a thin slice (around 200 microns) of silicon that is doped with chemicals to form a bilayer structure called a p-n junction. When photons of light are absorbed by the silicon, electrons flow, creating a small electric current. An organic solar cell takes a similar approach but uses an ultra-thin (100 nanometre) film mixture of two semiconducting polymers instead.

The prototype organic solar cell - the size of Greenham's hand - produces enough power to run an electronic calculator. The idea of a purple-coloured polymer as a conductor seems odd when plastics are normally considered excellent insulators. But mounted on glass, this solar cell uses the same class of materials as the polymer light-emitting diodes: long-chain plastics with double bonds which permit electron flow.

"My interest is in understanding how these things work from a physics point of view. The fact they may turn out to be helpful to the environment is certainly a bonus," Greenham says....MORE

*The History of the Cavendish Laboratory

Thomson's discovery of the electron in 1897

1997 marked the centenary of the discovery of the electron by Professor J.J. Thomson (Cavendish Professor 1884-1919). Still available on this server are some pages concerning this centenary (although some of the external links may have become invalid).

A Hundred Years and More of Cambridge Physics

Some years ago (the first edition was published in 1974) the Cambridge University Physics Society produced a booklet entitled "A Hundred Years and More of Cambridge Physics". This booklet was sold through the laboratory stores, and reprinted in 1980 and 1995.

The content of the booklet is reproduced here, though it should be pointed out that the articles are long and not ideally suited to viewing on the web. Also, you are likely to find it difficult to stop reading them once you have started!
Click here to read the book.

The ISBN for the booklet is 0 9507343 1 4, though it is likely to be unavailable outside of the laboratory.