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Toward Improved Hybrid Solar Cells (IN-07-053)

Argonne National Laboratory

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	Polymer precursors easily infiltrate electron-accepting nanotubes and are then polymerized in situ using ultraviolet light.</p>

Polymer precursors easily infiltrate electron-accepting nanotubes and are then polymerized in situ using ultraviolet light.

Technology Marketing Summary

In an effort to help build a sufficient supply of clean energy, scientists from Argonne National Laboratory have developed a method to create improved hybrid solar cells through the ultraviolet polymerization of a polymer precursor.


Finding plentiful clean energy is a critical world challenge. While sunlight is plentiful and carbon-neutral, because the technology for converting it to electric power is complicated and expensive, solar energy currently sees only limited use. Hybrid solar cells—devices incorporating both organic and inorganic materials—may serve as a promising alternative for traditional silicon-based solar cells. Thus far, however, the processes for building them have presented limitations.

One approach for making inexpensive hybrid photovoltaic (PV) cells involves filling nanostructured titanium dioxide films with solid organic hole conductors such as conjugated polymers. These compounds can function as light-absorbing species and inject electrons into the conduction band of the n-type semiconductor, while at the same time conducting the holes to the cathode. Several types of conjugated polymers can be used.

Argonne has fabricated a hybrid photovoltaic cell by immersing a nanotubular TiO2 substrate in a monomer precursor solution and then irradiating the substrate with ultraviolet (UV) light to polymerize the precursor. The resulting cell yields a photocurrent density substantially higher than that achieved by filling with pre-polymerized material.

Depositing polymer into densely ordered nanotube or nanorod arrays creates high-performing solar cells.


This fabrication method is cost-effective and relatively simple to execute, and results in high-performing solar cells.

Applications and Industries
  • Small and large electronics products
  • Military equipment
  • Mobile phones and chargers
Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Patent 8,269,100
Hybrid solar cells via UV-polymerization of polymer precursor
A hybrid photovoltaic cell comprising a composite substrate of a nanotube or nanorod array of metal oxide infiltrated with a monomer precursor and subsequently polymerized in situ via UV irradiation. In an embodiment, the photovoltaic cell comprises an electron accepting TiO.sub.2 nanotube array infiltrated with a photo-sensitive electron donating conjugated polymer. The conjugated polymer may be formed in situ through UV irradiation polymerizing a monomer precursor such as 2,5-diiodothiophene (DIT).
Argonne National Laboratory 09/18/2012
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated

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To: Elizabeth Jordan<>