Wake Forest University: Patent granted for Fibre-Solar Cell Technology

EP2022108B1 was granted last year and provides the University with a first patent for a new solar-cell technology that can double the energy production of today’s flat cells at a fraction of the cost.  The patent on the technology has been licensed to FiberCell Inc. to develop a way to manufacture the cells. The company, based in the Piedmont Triad Research Park in downtown Winston-Salem, is producing its first large test cells.

The new solar cells are made from millions of miniscule plastic fibres that can collect sunlight at oblique angles – even when the sun is rising and setting.  Flat-cell technology captures light primarily when the sun is directly above.

A diagram from the Fibercell website shows the design structure of the fibre:

First Claim:

1. An apparatus comprising

an optical fiber core (102);
a first electrode (104) surrounding the optical fiber core (102);
at least one photosensitive organic layer (108) surrounding the first electrode (104) and electrically connected to the first electrode (104); and
a second electrode (110) surrounding the organic layer (108) and electrically connected to the organic layer (108).
characterized in that
said first electrode (104) is radiation transmissive.

According to Wake Forrest, to make the cells, the plastic fibers are assembled onto plastic sheets, with a technology similar to that used to create the tops of soft-drink cups. The absorber – either a polymer or a dye – is sprayed on. The plastic makes the cells lightweight and flexible – a manufacturer could roll them up and ship them anywhere cheaply.  A diagram of this arrangement maybe similar to the one found in the patent in Fig. 5 but no details of the manufacture are available.

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