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Current commercial photosensitive cells are made of silicon, a stiff and somewhat ugly looking product that generates power from sunlight at an 18-22% efficiency. This week in Science, an article presented by a team of Chinese scientists at the Nankai University claims to have created an organic photovoltaic cell (OPV) that reaches 17.3% efficiency.

This article comes only a few weeks from a University of Michigan study that released an organic photovoltaic cell that produces a 15% conversion rate.

As you probably ascertain, every tenth of a percent is critical for photovoltaic conversion, and we are creeping up the line to replace the rigid silicon-based cells with flexible ink-based printed cells.

Just so you understand the importance of OPV’s, they are made of a carbon-based ink soluble material that is printed on any flexible surface, reducing production costs significantly as well as raising the applicability of these flexible OPVs significantly.

What makes the Chinese invention more interesting is how they adapted two cells into one structure, this way they could target two individual wavelengths, improving the overall efficiency of conversion.

The Study Leader Dr. Yongshen Chen, Ph.D., stated to the BBC that “We have two layers of active materials; each layer can absorb different wavelengths of light. That means you can use sunlight in the wider wavelengths more efficiently, and this can generate more current.”

According to Chen, a commercially viable solution could be ready on the market within 5 years. As usual, there are the detractors and nay Sayers, but Dr. Chen, as well as the researchers in Michigan all, claim that the future of photosensitive cells lies in OPV’s.