Heliatek GmbH announced a record breaking 12.0% cell efficiency for its organic solar cells. This world record, established in cooperation with the University of Ulm and TU Dresden, was measured by the accredited testing facility SGS. The measurement campaign at SGS also validated the superior low light and high temperature performances of organic photovoltaics (OPV) compared to traditional solar technologies.
The 12.0% record cell on a standard size of 1.1 cm² combines two patented absorber materials, which convert light of different wavelengths. Using two different absorber materials creates a stronger absorption of photons and improves energetic utilization through a higher photovoltage. Thanks to OPV's unique behavior at high temperatures and low light conditions, this 12% efficiency is comparable to about 14% to 15% efficiency for traditional solar technologies like crystalline silicon and thin film PV. Whereas those technologies significantly lose cell efficiency with rising temperatures and decreasing solar irradiation, organic cells increase their efficiency in these conditions leading to a much higher energy harvesting in real life environments.
The world record was enabled by significant R&D support from the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF-Project LOTsE #03EK3505E), the EU FP7 Program (Project X10D #287818), and the German Research Foundation (DFG Priority Program #1355).
Heliatek's OPV technology based on small molecules (oligomers) is currently being transferred to commercial production. The first production line was launched in spring 2012 and Heliatek Solar Films are already being delivered to industry partners for product development. The commercialization of first partner applications with integrated Heliatek Solar Films as energy harvesting components is expected in late 2013. In parallel, Heliatek has launched a financing round to raise €60 million from current and new investors for a new roll-to-roll volume production line to draw on economies of scale.
The key to Heliatek's success is the family of small organic molecules - oligomers - developed and synthesized at its own laboratory in Ulm, Germany. Heliatek is the only company in the world that uses the deposition of small organic molecules in a low temperature, roll-to-roll vacuum process. Its organic solar cells are made of nanometers-thin layers of high purity and uniformity. This enables the company to literally engineer the cell architecture to systematically improve efficiency and lifespan. This technology is very similar to the well-established OLED technology (organic LEDs) except that it operates in reverse, taking in light to create electricity. This gives Heliatek access to readily available manufacturing equipment, giving it a fast track to reliable volume production.