Media Contact: Fred Strohl

ORNL using supercomputers to improve solar panels


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OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Oct. 21, 2013 -- Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Center for Computational Sciences is using supercomputers to design better and less expensive solar panels that can capture the sun’s rays more efficiently and maximize power production.

“We are simulating alternative materials for solar cells that will allow us to make cheaper devices that are more efficient in converting sunlight into energy,” said Mike Brown, an ORNL staff scientist. “Traditionally, solar cells use inorganic semiconductors that are typically silicone. We are studying the use of organic molecules in the active layer. The reason for this is that they are much cheaper to manufacture and they also have desirable mechanical properties that are more flexible.  You can put them on a wide variety of surfaces.”

Brown added that gaining a better understanding of the materials is key the research effort.

“You typically have a blend of at least two materials in order to convert sunlight into energy,” Brown said. “One material effectively absorbs the sunlight and gets into an excited state. Then you have another material that can take this excited state and convert it into useable energy.”

Some of the research is also taking place at ORNL’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences and the University of Tennessee.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit .


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