Solar's Softer Side: Advances in Organic Photovoltaic Materials

Solar's Softer Side
Reported by
Sarah Webb

Posted April 08, 2010

Presented By


Organic solar technology has the potential to be competitive with non-renewable sources of electricity such as coal or natural gas. However, there some technological barriers that must be overcome to realize this potential. On January 14, 2010, researchers met to discuss new directions in solar, organic photovoltaics. The session began with two short student presentations. Andrew Mutter described the use of protein design and synthetic biology to develop new light-harvesting meta-materials modeled after photosynthesis. Athanasios Bourtsalas discussed nantennas, arrays of nanoscale optical antennas, that could convert sunlight into electricity more efficiently.

The student talks were followed by two keynote talks. Stephen Forrest described methods his laboratory is using to produce more efficient organic photovoltaic materials by refining properties such as crystallinity and nanoscale morphology. Gilles Dennler described commercial-scale production of plastic organic photovoltaic cells and the industrial outlook for this technology.

Use the tabs above to find a meeting report and multimedia from this event.


Brabec C, Scherf U, Dyakonov V. 2008. Organic Photovoltaics: Materials, Device Physics, and Manufacturing Technologies. Wiley-VCH, Wenheim, Germany.

Sun S, Sariciftci, NS. 2005. Organic Photovoltaics: Mechanisms, Materials, and Devices. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.


Dennler G, Sariciftci NS. 2005. Flexible conjugated polymer-based plastic solar cells: from basics to applications. Proceedings of the IEEE 93: 1429-1439.

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Keynote Speakers

Stephen R. Forrest

Stephen R. Forrest, PhD

University of Michigan
e-mail | web site

Stephen Forrest is the Vice-President for Research and the William Gould Dow Collegiate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He completed his bachelor's degree at the University of California, Berkeley, and his master's and PhD degrees at the University of Michigan. Since then he has worked on research related to photodetectors, optical communications, light emitting diodes, and photovoltaic devices using organic and inorganic materials at Bell Labs, the University of Southern California, and Princeton University, before moving back to Michigan in 2006. Forrest is a Fellow of the IEEE, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and received the Thomas Alva Edison award in 1998.

Gilles Dennler, PhD

Konarka Technologies

Gilles Dennler received an engineering degree in solid state physics and a master's degree in semiconductor physics from the National Institute for Applied Sciences in Lyon, France, in 1999. In 2002, he completed a PhD in plasma physics from the University of Toulouse in France and a PhD in experimental physics from the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, Canada. He was appointed an assistant professor at the Linz Institute for Organic Solar Cells in Austria in 2003. Since 2006, Dennler has served as the Director of Research for Konarka Technologies.

Student Speakers

Andrew Mutter

City College of New York / CUNY
web site

Andrew Mutter is a second year biochemistry PhD student at the City College of New York. He works with Professor Ron Koder to create solar energy nanodevices.

Athanasios Bourtsalas

Athanasios Bourtsalas

Columbia University
e-mail | web site

Athanasios Bourtsalas started his MS–PhD work in Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University in September 2008. He graduated from the University of Patras, Greece, with a BSc degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering (5-years degree, 72 courses). As a graduate student, Athanasios is a Junior Researcher in the Center of Life Cycle Analysis. His research interests include: renewable energy resources, in particular photovoltaics and wind power; health hazards related to nanotechnology; life cycle analysis.


Seogjoo Jang, PhD

Queens College, City University of New York
e-mail | web site | publications

Seogjoo Jang is an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Queens College, CUNY. He is also a member of the doctoral faculty in Chemistry & Physics at the Graduate Center at CUNY.

Jang received his PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999. He has earned numerous awards, including the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation and the Goldhaber Distinguished Fellowship from Brookhaven National Lab.

Sarah Webb

Before hanging up her labcoat, Sarah Webb earned a PhD in bioorganic chemistry from Indiana University. Based in Brooklyn, NY, she writes about science, health, and technology for many publications including Scientific American, Discover, Science Careers, Nature Biotechnology, and ACS Chemical Biology.