School of Chemistry & Physics

Spotight Shed on Thin Film Organic Solar Cells

Spotight Shed on Thin Film Organic Solar Cells

Professor Genene Tessema Mola of the School of Chemistry and Physics delivered a plenary presentation on the effect of bimetallic nano-composites on the performance of thin film organic solar cells at the fifth International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICONN 2019), held at the SRM Institute of Science and Technology in India.

First held in 2010, the biennial ICONN conference is organised by the SRM’s Department of Physics and Nanotechnology, and attracts researchers from across the world working in the fields of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. Previously hosted by Shizuoka University in Japan, GNS Science in New Zealand, the Asian Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Association in Japan and the National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan, the 2019 conference was sponsored by India’s Department of Science and Technology’s Science and Engineering Research Board, the country’s Defence Research and Development Organisation and private industry partners. It attracted more than 1 000 participants, including academics, researchers, members of industry and students.

Mola, who conducts research in the field of Material Science and Device Physics, has experience of working with materials including silicon and germanium as well as organic semiconductors. He was invited to present a plenary lecture thanks to his more than 10 years of work in the field of nanostructured materials and thin film solar cells, which has been published in several high impact journals.

The presentation focused on investigations on polymer-fullerene based thin film organic solar cells with and without nano-structured metal particles and composites to improve solar energy harvesting. His research group has routinely fabricated laboratory scale thin film solar cells and studied the effect of metal nano-particles on device performance in terms of changes in the optical, electrical and microstructural properties of the photoactive films. These solar cells are solution process-able and the 200-nanometre-thick absorber films can be deposited on transparent substrates such as glass, metal or plastic to convert solar energy into electricity. The advantages of this new generation of solar cell technology include low device processing costs, their lightweight nature and the fact that they are environmentally friendly. As such, they are important renewable energy sources.

Mola’s presentation was well received by fellow scientists and researchers. He said that the conference was also an opportunity to learn about important developments in the synthesis and applications of nano-structured materials. Conversations with other leading researchers gave rise to fresh research ideas and potential opportunities for collaboration.

Mola has been at UKZN for eight years, and has published 92 articles in refereed journals in the course of his career. He has supervised 35 postgraduate students from honours to PhD level and is currently pursuing research in the fabrication and characterisation of solution process-able thin film solar cells, which has attracted interest from both academia and industry.

‘There is … huge investment in this research field globally because of the high potential of the new technology in reducing the costs for solar cell, [and the] lightweight and mechanical flexibility of the devices,’ said Mola. ‘South Africa can benefit from this potential, since energy security is a priority in the country, and the world is moving towards clean sources of energy like these.’

Words: Christine Cuénod 

PhotographSupplied by Genene Tessema Mola