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BASF, Bosch, Merck, Schott in organic photovoltaicsnews
Our Technology Bureau
30 June 2007

German chemicals group BASF and automotive ancillaries and engineering group Bosch have decided to cooperate in the innovative field of organic photovoltaics. Along with pharma company Merck and glassmaker Schott, they have become founding members of a technology initiative of Germany''s federal ministry of education and research (BMBF), which will invest in research to expand the applications of solar cell manufacture and reduce their costs.

In 2006, around €8 billion of photovoltaic modules were sold worldwide. The segment is expected to grow by more than 20 per cent annually until 2020. The ministry will provide €60 million for research to develop this market, and the industry up to €300 million.

"The initiative to promote organic photovoltaics is an example of how we combine our strengths to invest in new technologies," said Dr. Annette Schavan, German federal minister for research, at the launch of the new initiative.

The term ''organic photovoltaics'' describes solar cells based on organic semi-conductive materials that can generate electricity from light, which, some scientists hope, will replace silicon, used today. The aim is to use new materials, production processes and installation technologies to make the organic solar cells more efficient and cost effective.

According to the promoters of the initiative, organic solar cells are flexible and as thin as a sheet protector. They are both light and colour tunable, which enables them, for example, to be used in foldable cell phone chargers, for example, or on car roofs. Their main area of application is expected to be in the construction industry from 2015 onwards, where the cells will be used in the form of a thin layer of plastic on roofs, windows or facades.

Stake in Heliatek
To further develop the new technology, BASF and Bosch are also cooperating on special research activities with the Dresden-based company Heliatek GmbH; each of them is investing €1.6 million in the start-up company, founded in 2006. The other investors are Wellington Partners and the ''High-Tech Gründerfonds''. Heliatek specialises in the manufacture of new-generation organic solar cells. The company is working on an ultra-efficient technology to build large-scale modules on cheap, flexible substrates using a roll-to-roll production process.

BASF is conducting research into semi-conductive organic materials with high thermal and photo-thermal stability. These materials are intended to replace the function of the silicon used today by absorbing sunlight and converting it into electric power. They represent the beginning of a system innovation and determine key properties of the end product. BASF contributes its broad-based expertise in the field of organic electronics and the design, synthesis and production of complex organic compounds to the project.

"BASF is working in close interdisciplinary collaboration with Bosch - and at an early stage. This will allow us to jointly create the conditions needed to develop the product more swiftly and to gain a competitive advantage globally," said Dr. Stefan Marcinowski, executive research director, and member of BASF''s board of executive directors. "Organic photovoltaics becomes a strategic focus of our growth clusters energy management and nanotechnology."

Bosch will look at issues relating to industrial production. "We want to use organic photovoltaics to make solar energy available cost-effectively," explained Siegfried Dais, deputy chairman of the Bosch board of management, with responsibility for research and advance engineering. This can only be done through efficient mass production, and Bosch aims to develop the appropriate processes. "At the same time we want to use this opportunity to get closer to our vision of an energy self-sufficient home."

Bosch has made considerable progress here; it has already successfully launched technologies for producing renewable energies, including solar collectors for generating hot water, large gear units for wind farms, heat pumps, and vegetable oil- and wood pellet-based burners.

The researchers aim to develop organic solar cells that convert at least 10 per cent of incident light into energy and offer a service life of more than ten years. BASF''s ''Joint Innovation Lab - Organic Electronics'', opened in 2006 in Ludwigshafen, acts as a cooperation platform for the industry and university partners. Experts there are working in areas like organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs), a technology based, like organic photovoltaics, on organic semi-conductive materials.


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BASF, Bosch, Merck, Schott in organic photovoltaics