The basic functioning of a solar cell is to convert light energy into electrical energy. Traditional solar cells are made up of silicon based layer PV (Photovoltaic) cells that absorb heat from the sun and produces energy. Sunlight consists of very small particles of photons that are absorbed by the solar cells. When the sunlight strikes the surface of the semiconductor material of the solar cell, photovoltaic effect takes place that converts light energy into DC (direct current) electricity. The produced direct current is then converted into alternating current through an inverter. Scientists have invented new plastic solar cells that can turn the sun power into electrical energy even on a cloudy day. This new infrared plastic solar cell uses nanotechnology that absorbs the infrared part of the sun’s energy. The solar cell consists of nanorods scattered in the cell and present in the layer between electrodes. These nanorods are made up of cadmium selenide and are coated with aluminum. The heat from the sun is absorbed by the cells and is used to move electrons freely, forming current. Molecular engineering can shift the energy gap that allows chemical transformation in these materials. Due to high amount of optical absorption coefficient or organic molecules, large amount of light can be absorbed using fewer materials. Plastic solar cells have extensive applications and potential uses from gadgets to building integrations. The main features of plastic solar cells are flexibility and adaptability i.e. it can be cut into any length and can be made in custom colors, apart from being lightweight and ultra-thin. Conventional solar cells can only absorb the sun’s visible rays i.e. only half of the sun’s radiation. Plastic solar cells are 30% more efficient than conventional solar cells and are very compact. The plastics used in plastic solar cells have low production costs at high volumes. These solar cells are potentially cost effective for photovoltaic applications.
Exploiting the infrared radiation from the sun’s rays even on cloudy days, compactness, and flexibility are the major drivers of the plastic solar cells market. Also, these plastic solar cells can be deployed in other applications as well such as hiking packs, wearable’s, and PV tubes. Its design freedom can integrate with many gadgets, wearable electronics, and other low power devices, thus providing wide opportunities for the growth of the plastic solar cell market. However, in the current scenario, plastic solar cells have some limitations that can hinder the growth of the market. The limitations include shorter life span as compared to traditional solar panels and high maintenance and constant monitoring. Also, plastic solar cells cost about 10 times more than its traditional counterpart.
Plastic solar cells can be segmented on the basis of application, end-use industry, and geography. By application, the market can be segmented into solar farms, residential, hydrogen powered cars, disposable solar panel posters, and others. By end-use industry, plastic solar cells market can be segmented into electronics and electrical, power and energy, automobiles and others.
By geography, the plastic solar cells market can be bifurcated into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, and South America. Europe is the most influential region in the global plastic solar cell market due to presence of major plastic solar cell manufacturing companies, apart from the increased adoption of plastic solar cells in the flourishing automotive industry.
Some of the prominent players in the plastic solar cell market include infinityPV, Cambridge Display Technology, BP Solar, Phototherm, Yingli Solar, OneMaterial, Sumitomo Chemical, CSEM, DuPont, Canadian Solar Inc., SINTEF, and Eight19 Ltd. These major players are continuously investing in research and development to make improvements in existing plastic solar cells by improving performance and life span.
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