Frederik C. Krebs Discusses Organic Photovoltaic Technology

Fast Breaking Papers Commentary, April 2011

Frederik C. Krebs

Article: Manufacture, integration and demonstration of polymer solar cells in a lamp for the "Lighting Africa'' initiative

Authors: Krebs, FC;Nielsen, TD;Fyenbo, J;Wadstrom, M;Pedersen, MS
Volume: 3, Issue: 5, Page: 512-525, Year: 2010
* Tech Univ Denmark, Riso Natl Lab Sustainable Energy, Frederiksborgvej 399, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark.
* Tech Univ Denmark, Riso Natl Lab Sustainable Energy, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark.
(Addresses have been truncated)

Frederik C. Krebs talks with and answers a few questions about this month's Fast Breaking Paper paper in the field of Environment/Ecology.

SW: Why do you think your paper is highly cited?

It is one of the first convincing examples of polymer solar cell application. Many of the papers that are published within the field of organic photovoltaics (OPV) today show a large degree of similarity and typically follow the pattern that a new material is reported, with slightly higher or similar performance to the other recent reports. Seen from above this could appear as incremental work that adds little new.

This paper takes OPV all the way out into a real setting and tests it against all the promises that authors have posted and reposted into the introduction of the articles. When you read this paper you may like or dislike it, but at least it does not look like any of the similar papers you have read and it does try honestly to move forward.

Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of knowledge?

"If OPV is to survive as a technology, we need it out there and we need many independent researchers and non-academics to agree on what this technology is and what it can do."

In many ways, yes, the work has an exceptionally wide scope covering the great distance from the laboratory to the real world (outside the laboratory). It also includes financial, sociological, and geographical aspects and does try to solve a real problem (helping all those people that do not have reading light after sunset in developing parts of the world).

Would you summarize the significance of your paper in layman's terms?

This paper honestly takes a massively reported technology (the OPV technology) and tests it against a real life setting. The purpose is to honestly report how well the technology performs (when compared to the often exaggerated views that many authors use to sell their scientific work). It also helps to identify where more effort should be placed.

How did you become involved in this research, and how would you describe the particular challenges, setbacks, and successes that you've encountered along the way?

I have been working in the field of OPV for 11 years and I would like to see it move in the direction that everyone working here intends but that no one really tries to pursue. Some years ago I started doing real-life demonstrations of OPV to learn how to improve the OPV technology.

It is naïve to think that you can develop something in the laboratory, patent it, and then think that there will be widespread usage of the invention. Any development has to be adapted to the real world and making the laboratory development in its final form represent only 10-20% of the way to real usage and benefit to society.

The work reported in this paper is in many ways a status report of 2009 and is meant as an arrow pointing in the direction of where research efforts should be placed to improve the applicability of the OPV technology.

Where do you see your research leading in the future?

The general idea of demonstrating your research to everyone interested and not simply describing it in scientific articles (while keeping it secret from the rest of the world) is in my view necessary to achieve credibility of the research. It is, for instance, problematic in the field of OPV that high power conversion efficiencies of above 8% are claimed while nobody is willing to exchange or demonstrate devices publically that has efficiencies of more than 1-2%.

If OPV is to survive as a technology we need it out there and we need many independent researchers and non-academics to agree on what this technology is and what it can do. It is, needless to say, highly inefficient to keep it to yourself while publically boasting high performance. What is worse, it does not inspire confidence in the technology.

Do you foresee any social or political implications for your research?

There could possibly be a future for OPV in the low-cost lighting area (and many other places). If the lighting solutions through further development reach a stage where they can compete, then the social implications could be huge. It could lift the educational level of billions of people and in terms of energy saving it could significantly reduce CO2 emissions and have a large impact from an energy political point of view.End

Frederik Christian Krebs
Solar Energy Programme
Risø DTU
Technical University of Denmark
Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy
Roskilde, Denmark



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