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Solar technology under spotlight

By Leanne Coleman

PhD candidate Monishka Narayan is currently working on optimising the design of organic solar cells PhD candidate Monishka Narayan is currently working on optimising the design of organic solar cells

Research by a Charles Darwin University PhD candidate could help shed some light on the development of new renewable energy technology by harnessing the power of the sun.

CDU renewable energy specialist and PhD candidate Monishka Narayan is working on optimising the design of organic solar cells that could not only improve performance, but also be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

“Silicon solar cell technology is very expensive,” Ms Narayan said. “Organic solar cells (OSCs) convert sunlight directly into electricity using organic materials. They are economical and can be fabricated on flexible devices such as plastics, transport and hand-held devices.”

Ms Narayan said, however, that OSCs had poor power conversion efficiencies. “The conversion efficiency of OSCs is only 10 per cent at present relative to the conventional silicon solar cells, which is 25 per cent,” she said. “We are working towards optimising the performance of OSCs by improving their cell design.”  

Ms Narayan said OSCs would not require sophisticated implementation and could be painted on to any surface, making their application user-friendly.

“We are looking at the theoretical optimisation of each of the operating processes within OSCs,” she said.

“It’s all about enabling the OSCs to absorb more light by optimising their layer thicknesses and hence enhancing their power conversion efficiency.”

Using computer models and aspects of condensed matter physics, Ms Narayan’s theoretical study is being carried out on various operation mechanisms to improve the performance of OSCs.

“We hope the design we develop can be used for household and domestic applications in the near future, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and helping combat climate change,” she said.

Ms Narayan’s PhD thesis is entitled “Design of Thin Film Organic Solar cells for Optimum Performance” and is supervised by Professor Jai Singh from School of Engineering and IT, and Dr Kean Yap of the Centre for Renewable Energy, Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods.