The FFO called for proposals focused materials and process technologies that could be used to significantly bolster U.S.-based manufacturing. Polyera's proposal focused on the development of novel, highly-scalable and cost-effective synthesis routes for the large-scale production of active layer materials for organic solar cells, and the use of these materials to enable cost-competitive manufacturing of solar modules.
Given its natural abundance, solar power has long been a promising source of renewable energy, but – due to high manufacturing and installation costs – has remained uncompetitive on a cost-per-watt basis with competing technologies. Organic photovoltaics (OPV) have the potential to significantly reduce these costs, but this requires that the active layer materials providing the required power conversion efficiencies must be easily producible in large quantities.
The project will look at developing both novel synthetic routes for the fundamental building-block, and using a highly-novel polymerization method never before used in our industry to better control the photoactive layer polymer architecture at the nanoscale. Compared with traditional polymerization methods, this new approach offers the advantages of reduced complexity and greater control over molecular weight and polydispersity, ultimately leading to higher-yield, lower-cost and higher-performance polymer production, thus optimizing device performance. Polyera will then work with third parties to scale-up the material and ensure its performance and suitability in solar modules at both the pilot and production line scales.
"We are thrilled that NIST selected our project for award" says Philippe Inagaki, founder and CEO of Polyera. "Especially as this award was focus on bolstering the availability of high-performance materials for manufacturing, we view this not only as a testament to the quality of the applied materials development efforts here at Polyera, but to the potential for organic photovoltaics to be a transformative technology for both the U.S. and the world."