Within the research and technology field of organic electronics, organic photovoltaics (OPV) – based on either small molecule or polymer active materials – have recently shown strong progress concerning performance of the solar cells produced and fundamental insights achieved in device physics, architectures, lifetime and processing technology. The relevance of this emerging technology for future renewable energy production lies mainly in its potential to reduce the production cost per GigaWatt production volume in a substantial way. Processing of the required materials as inks using existing printing techniques and the limited demands on the production environment (no cleanrooms needed) allow for a cheap high-volume production of solar cells of medium efficiency. As only very thin films are used for the active layers (in the range of 100 nm) and various classes of organic materials can be applied, the cost advantages of such technology become even more clear.
At this moment power conversion efficiencies (PCEs) above 10% can be envisaged for OPV and progress in device engineering has allowed for a first evaluation in real life, for the time being rather as a test-case in consumer electronics. To contribute substantially to resolving the TeraWatt energy challenge, many questions still need to be addressed, e.g. at the level of fundamental understandings, the development of the most effective device types, the use & role of specific interfaces and charge transport layers, and implementation of the most economic production technology.