The Essence and Efficiency Limits of Bulk-Heterostructure Organic Solar Cells

Muhammad Ashraful Alam, Purdue University
Biswajit Ray, Purdue University - Main Campus
Mohammad R. khan, Purdue University
Sourabh Dongaonkar, Purdue University - Main Campus

Date of this Version



Mater. Res. Soc. Symp. Proc. Vol. 1390


Since its introduction in early 1990s, bulk-heterojunction organic photovoltaic solar cell (BHJ-OPV) has promised high-efficiency at ultra-low cost and weight, with potential for nontraditional applications such as building-integrated PV. There is a widespread presumption, however, that the complexity of morphology makes carrier transport in OPV irreducibly complicated, and possibly, beyond predictive modeling. In this paper, we use elementary and intuitive arguments to derive the fundamental thermodynamic as well as morphology-specific practical limits of BHJ-OPV efficiency. We find that constraints of the percolation threshold and trade-off among short-circuit current, open circuit voltage, and fill factor make substantial improvement in OPV efficiency difficult. We posit that future improvement in OPV will rely not on morphology engineering, or reducing the polymer bandgap, but on increasing both the effective μ × τ product and the cross-gap between donor/acceptors. Even if the OPV fails to achieve the highest efficiency anticipated by the thermodynamic limit, its novel form factor, lightweight, and transparency can make it a commercially viable option for many applications.


Electronic Devices and Semiconductor Manufacturing