Advances in Polymer-Based Photovoltaic Cells: Review of Pioneering Materials, Design, and Device Physics

Living reference work entry


Photovoltaics, which directly convert solar energy into electricity, offer a practical and sustainable solution to the challenge of bridging the global demand and supply gap in energy along with carbon-neutral, renewable energy source. Recently significant progress in organic photovoltaic materials has been made to overcome technological and material barriers in order to develop organic or polymeric photovoltaic devices (OPVs or PPVs) with cost-effective efficiency with respect to the inorganic counterparts and to make them commercially viable for applications as flexible solar modules, semitransparent solar cells in windows, and photon recycling in liquid-crystal displays. Organic photovoltaics technology is rapidly emerging as a transformative technology with meliorating cell efficiency (currently ~13.2%), encouraging initial lifetime (>5,000 hours without encapsulation), and potential for roll-to-roll manufacturing processes. It is a technology with great potential for extremely high-throughput manufacturing at very low cost and are made from nontoxic, earth-abundant materials with low energy inputs. OPV is finding application in the building-integrated PV market because of the availability of efficient light weight transparent devices absorbers in several different colors. With an intensified understanding on the fundamental photovoltaic processes in organic electronic materials and the development of tailored materials and device architectures, there is rapid increase in the efficiency of OPV devices to over 10%, which attracts tremendous commercial interests for further development and manufacturing. This conversion efficiency for given solar spectrum depends on the organic material properties and device architecture. The enduringness of organic solar technology lies in the variety of organic materials that can be designed and synthesized for the absorber, acceptor, and interfaces. Even with the promise of increasing overall efficiency, the field is still immature in the stage of infancy. The major improvements which are required for development of viable OPVs are around 10% overall efficiency, high stability from degradation under standard test conditions, new optically active polymers with specially tuned optoelectronic properties and large exciton diffusion length, various effective interfacial layers, new device architectures, and a deeper understanding of device physics.

This chapter reviews the scientific origins and past, current initiatives, and critical issues on the efficiency improvement of organic solar cells from the material properties perspective for terrestrial applications. It covers some of the most significant technological developments that were presented in the literature and helped to improve its performance. Potential future developments and the applications of this technology are also discussed. Organic–inorganic lead halide-based perovskites solar cells which are by far are the highest efficiency solution-processed solar cells are also briefly described.

However, there are many challenges both in R&D and in commercialization. The photovoltaic community is working on new organic materials, device designs, and process tools, while there is a rapid growth in commercial equipment for improved processing and higher throughput. The low-efficiency thin film flexible polymer materials can find applications in building-integrated PV systems, flexible electronics, flexible power generation systems, and many other markets. Finally, we conclude with a look at the future challenges and prospects of the development of efficient photovoltaic materials for meeting global energy demand.


Solar cells Efficiency Morphology Device physics Polymer solar cells Electron donors and acceptors Energy Perovskites 



The author (ST) is grateful to Dr. Ralph Gebauer, Sr. Research Scientist, Abdus Salam ICTP, Italy, for guidance, useful discussions, and persistent help, and financial support of the Abdus Salam ICTP, Italy, through Sr. Associateship.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Photonics Research Laboratory, S.O.S. in Electronics & PhotonicsPt. Ravishankar Shukla UniversityRaipurIndia
  2. 2.Department of EEE, BITS-PILANI, PILANI CampusPilaniIndia
  3. 3.Department of PhysicsUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA
  4. 4.IBM Almaden Research CenterSan JoseUSA
  5. 5.Homi Bhabha National InstituteMumbaiIndia

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