The only barrier to entry for solar power for most people right now is cost. Crystalline photovoltaic cells are expensive to make and while their price has come down over the years, they will always incorporate components, like silicon, that come only at a certain cost. Enter researcher Sufutul Islam at the University of Arizona. He’s working on perfecting the technology of organic photovoltaics, or OPVs. OPVs use cheaper carbon-based polymers to separate charges to produce a current from solar rays.
While OPVs don’t reach the same efficiencies as their crystalline counterparts, they don’t need to. Since they are so cheap to manufacture, even operating at 10% efficiency will be enough for them to be attractive to the green buyer who is currently limited by budget.
Don’t get excited about OPVs just yet though – one of the main obstacles of Islam’s work is that the OPVs are unstable, and he is researching ways to stabilize the chemical layer so that they don’t break down. If he succeeds, it means that solar energy will be within reach of those who could previously not afford it, and more corporations may begin to consider it if the cost comes down.