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infinityPV Sees Opportunities in Printed OPV

By David Savastano, Editor | November 30, 2016

Company manufacturers value chain from active layer inks to completed solar modules.

About 10 years ago, the idea of printed organic solar cells was thought to be a huge opportunity for the printed electronics industry, but with the exception of a few companies, organic photovoltaics (OPV) never quite took off. infinityPV, a Danish start-up company founded in 2014, is looking to make its mark in this field.
infinityPV was founded by its CEO, Frederik C. Krebs, along with 31 co-owners, many of who have more than 15 years’ experience in the field. All of the co-owners own equal shares. The company has no outside funding, and raised money through a Kickstarter campaign based on its HeLi-on solar charger.
“In 2016, infinityPV made a large stride in the commercialization and popularization of polymer solar cells with its HeLi-on Kickstarter campaign,” infinityPV’s Markus Hösel said. “The success of the HeLi-on Kickstarter campaign strengthened infinityPV’s position as a solar cell manufacturer and increased public interest in organic solar cells.”
Hösel noted the company’s technology is based on a series of patents on a busbarless (near)infinitely printed solar cell approach, hence the company’s name. The key feature is that in contrast to traditional PV, infinityPV steps up voltage rather than current.
“This allows us to print the solar cells without embedded busbars,” Hösel said. “This approach enables fast and easy customization of the solar cells for different purposes, since they can essentially be cut to length. This design paradigm leads to a radically different approach to the electronics as compared to more traditional solar cells. Therefore, infinityPV is designing custom electronics and inverters made to optimally utilize the high voltage solar cells.
“Our background allows us to develop not only the chemistry,” Hösel continued. “We are also able to manufacture the entire solar cell stack using printing and coating technology in ambient environment. Furthermore, we develop, build and commercialize PV characterization equipment such as solar simulators and ultra-fast light beam induced current mapping systems (LBIC), as well as lab-to-fab processing equipment.”
In the past month, infinityPV launched active layer inks, based on organic semiconductor materials, for roll-to-roll fabrication of polymer solar cells. infinityPV offers four inks for sale with optimized photovoltaic properties and tailored visual impressions.
Hösel noted that the main advantage of printed PV is that it is flexible, very lightweight and has a very thin outline, which gives designers new opportunities to utilize the solar cells.
“It can be applied in a number of places and applications that is not possible with existing technology,” Hösel said. “Different color options and semi-transparency are additional features that draw interest in architectural applications such as building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) and energy generating windows. The ultra flexibility allows applications such as the HeLi-on solar charger with an integrated large-area polymer solar cell that can be rolled-up and put in your pocket.”
The ability to utilize a roll-to-roll printing process is a huge advantage due to production speed and cost.
“A secondary advantage of the technology is its mode of fabrication,” observed Hösel. “The solar cells are fully fabricated using large-scale ambient roll-to-roll (R2R) printing and coating techniques at high speed. The process requires little energy when compared with traditional solar cell technologies and produces large area modules with no need for post fabrication assembly. The technology does not include any toxic or scarce elements and is environmentally friendly with a short energy payback time.”
Hösel said that infinityPV addresses a number of markets, with solar foil being one of them. infinityPV develops and markets inks, electrodes, hardware and more for printed solar cell research and development. These products include printing and measurement technology as well as electronics to transform the electricity generated by the solar cells. Another key product is the active inks developed and optimized for industrial manufacturing of organic solar cells, applying fast roll-to-roll (R2R) coating and printing techniques.
“In short, infinityPV covers the entire value chain from the chemistry, through the manufacture to the end product in the printed solar cell market,” Hösel added. “The key markets for the inks and hardware are solar cell companies with interest in upscaling their printed solar cell processing capacity, as well as R&D institutions and academia expanding from lab to fab. We cover the entire value chain from the chemistry, through the manufacture to the end product.”
infinityPV’s technology has its advantages, but printed polymer solar cells still have a ways to go.
“At this stage the polymer solar cells technology is still in its infancy,” Hösel said. “Therefore, it is in many ways too early to discuss the market or even guess on where it is. Many customers are still early adopters keen on the novelty of the technology and fellow scientists eager to see how the field is evolving.
“The best current indication of the market reaction is the HeLi-on Kickstarter campaign,” he added. “The campaign raised 1,250,000 DKK ($180,000) for the HeLi-on, a compact solar charger using flexible printed polymer solar cells. The HeLi-on campaign became one of the best-funded Danish Kickstarter projects ever and won the Danish crowdfunding award for Best Crowdfunding Project 2015. It is now in use all around the world. We also won second place in RSC Emerging Technologies 2015 competition with the forerunner of the HeLi-on. We got plenty of positive feedback but also suggestions for further developments that we will implement in future products. The DIY electronics community, makers and Internet of Things developers with low-power requirements also show emerging interest in our technology.”
Ultimately, Hösel sees niche markets being the best opportunities for infinityPV’s polymer solar cells.
“Competition is exceptionally hard when considering energy production where traditional silicon-based PV is established and excelling,” Hösel added. “In that context, our technology is very likely to be a niche technology with applications where the flexibility, tailored colors, and ease of customization can generate new applications. Integrated into short-lived products, the lower environmental impact of the polymer solar cells is a major selling point.”

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