Collaboration energizes research
Organic-based solar cells have the potential to revolutionize renewable energy technology. Cheaper and more flexible than their silicon-based counterparts, organic solar cells can be incorporated into places not ordinarily used for gathering the sun’s energy, such as clothing, office windows and messenger bags.
Seven years of research collaboration between Seth Rasmussen, associate professor of chemistry at NDSU, and Paul Dastoor, professor of physics and director of the Centre for Organic Electronics at the University of Newcastle, Australia, have led to cutting-edge solar cell technology. Rasmussen and Dastoor specialize in a subset of the cells that can absorb near infrared light. In addition to development of solar cells that absorb more of the solar spectrum, such detection with cheaper materials could help in the development of better fiber-optic communication networks.
“The science behind these types of devices can’t really be done by a single person,” Rasmussen said. “We’re both working on two halves of the problem.”
Rasmussen has been working with the materials used in these solar cells since 1999, but didn’t have the expertise to build the solar cell itself. Dastoor would have to rely on commercially available materials without a synthetic chemist. Their collaboration is based on friendship, respect, and a “passionate excitement for the science,” Dastoor said.
“The main thing that’s in it for me is being able to develop new materials and being able to contribute to the field,” Rasmussen said. “I’m less concerned with making the next commercial device as really being able to advance the science behind these types of devices.”