Molecular Solar is a spin-out company from the University of Warwick. The Company has been established to commercialise third generation solar cell technology developed in a multi-million pound R&D programme at the University. The founding team has over 80 years of combined experience developing and commercialising new technology and a track record of success.
Early financial support came from the Founders, the University, Warwick Ventures Ltd., RDA proof of concept funding and a grant from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB). Rapid progress has been made during the past year to demonstrate the viability of the technology.
The company is now participating in a £2.1 Million project involving a consortium of four companies and two universities to establish a leadership position in third generation solar technology. The project is being funded by the TSB, the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) and the participating companies: Molecular Solar, Kurt Lesker, Asylum Research and New World Solar. The participating universities are the University of Warwick and Imperial College London. The Company has also sucessfully completed a seed round of equity investment led by the Mercia Fund Management, the founders and private investors.
The Benefits (USPs) of Molecular Solar's OPV Technology
The challenge to all new photovoltaic (PV) technologies is to reduce the cost of solar electricity generation to be competitive with the cost of conventionally generated electricity at the point of use. When this Grid Parity is achieved an immense non-subsidised market for PV will emerge. Organic photovoltaic (OPV) technology offers long term opportunities to meet this goal since the basic material is low cost and has no supply constraint. However, the efficiency and lifetime of current OPV systems do not meet the basic requirements for grid-connected electricity generation. The first generation of OPV technology will however be particularly well matched to lucrative, high volume consumer applications for the following reasons:
Low material cost and sustainability.
Unconstrained end-of-life disposability/recyclable.
High power-to-weight ratio for portability.
High-speed deposition reducing unit capital investment.
Flexible substrate enabling compact and versatile product form.
The potential for significant efficiency improvement through the discovery or engineering of new or tailored compounds.
A unique selling point of Molecular Solar's multi-junction OPV approach is that exceptionally high cell voltages are achieved using relatively few junctions: The Molecular Solar team have recently realised open-circuit voltages in excess of 4 volts under 1 sun illumination. By comparison a state-of-the-art 4-junction concentrator cell based on conventional inorganic semiconductors such as Gallium Arsenide would only deliver a comparable open-circuit voltage under 500 suns illumination. The importance of this advance for portable consumer electronics applications is two-fold: (i) it means that cells can be used to deliver electrical energy at a voltage suitable for recharging the lithium ion batteries that are widely used in consumer electronics; (ii) a further advantage is that single cells can be used with no requirement to connect multiple cells in series for these applications, saving manufacturing cost. These advantages are achieved using a combination of new light harvesting materials developed by the founders and Molecular Solar's highly innovative multi-junction cell architecture.
A second unique selling point is Molecular Solar's FLEXIFILMTMsubstrate technology that provides a truly flexible, low cost alternative to current Indium Tin Oxide (ITO)-glass technology which is expensive and inflexible. Demonstration of our OPV cell technology on the FLEXIFILMTM substrate has very recently been verified. An important advantage of this technology over other transparent electrodes is the potential for recycling and the complete absence of toxic components.
The third unique selling point of Molecular Solar's technology is the use of small molecule organic materials - a class of materials which have demonstrated good lifetime performance in commercial organic light emitting diode (OLED) applications and amenability to high throughput production methods. The team have a record of innovation in the area of molecular semiconductor selection for OPV applications and more recently photoactive material design, with their work featuring in 2011 on the front cover of one of the World's most prestigious energy focused scientific journals: Advanced Energy Materials.
Crucially the Molecular Solar team believe that the performance of the current generation of its OPV technology is tantalisingly close to being suitable for a number of consumer electronics applications and so is focused on translating the technology from the laboratory to the field. This application focus combined with the provenability of the founders to innovate in relation to all aspects of device design gives Molecular Solar a very strong competitive advantage.