A printable, flexible, organic solar cell | Hannah Bürckstümmer

A printable, flexible, organic solar cell | Hannah Bürckstümmer

You may have noticed
that I’m wearing two different shoes. It probably looks funny — it definitely feels funny — but I wanted to make a point. Let’s say my left shoe corresponds
to a sustainable footprint, meaning we humans consume
less natural resources than our planet can regenerate, and emit less carbon dioxide
than our forests and oceans can reabsorb. That’s a stable and healthy condition. Today’s situation
is more like my other shoe. It’s way oversized. At the second of August in 2017, we had already consumed all resources
our planet can regenerate this year. This is like spending all your money
until the 18th of a month and then needing a credit
from the bank for the rest of the time. For sure, you can do this
for some months in a row, but if you don’t change your behavior, sooner or later,
you will run into big problems. We all know the devastating effects
of this excessive exploitation: global warming, rising of the sea levels, melting of the glaciers and polar ice, increasingly extreme
climate patterns and more. The enormity of this problem
really frustrates me. What frustrates me even more
is that there are solutions to this, but we keep doing things
like we always did. Today I want to share with you how a new solar technology can contribute
to a sustainable future of buildings. Buildings consume about 40 percent
of our total energy demand, so tackling this consumption would significantly reduce
our climate emissions. A building designed
along sustainable principles can produce all the power
it needs by itself. To achieve this, you first have to reduce
the consumption as much as possible, by using well-insulated walls
or windows, for instance. These technologies
are commercially available. Then you need energy
for warm water and heating. You can get this
in a renewable way from the sun through solar-thermal installations or from the ground and air,
with heat pumps. All of these technologies are available. Then you are left
with the need for electricity. In principle, there are several ways
to get renewable electricity, but how many buildings do you know
which have a windmill on the roof or a water power plant in the garden? Probably not so many, because usually,
it doesn’t make sense. But the sun provides abundant energy
to our roofs and facades. The potential to harvest this energy
at our buildings’ surfaces is enormous. Let’s take Europe as an example. If you would utilize all areas
which have a nice orientation to the sun and they’re not overly shaded, the power generated by photovoltaics would correspond to about 30 percent
of our total energy demand. But today’s photovoltaics
have some issues. They do offer a good
cost-performance ratio, but they aren’t really flexible
in terms of their design, and this makes aesthetics a challenge. People often imagine pictures like this when thinking about
solar cells on buildings. This may work for solar farms, but when you think of buildings,
of streets, of architecture, aesthetics does matter. This is the reason why we don’t see
many solar cells on buildings today. They just don’t match. Our team is working on a totally
different solar-cell technology, which is called
organic photovoltaics or OPV. The term organic describes that the material used
for light absorption and charge transport are mainly based on the element carbon, and not on metals. We utilize the mixture of a polymer which is set up by different
repeating units, like the pearls in a pearl chain, and a small molecule
which has the shape of a football and is called fullerene. These two compounds are mixed
and dissolved to become an ink. And like ink, they can be printed with simple
printing techniques like slot-die coating in a continuous roll-to-roll process
on flexible substrates. The resulting thin layer
is the active layer, absorbing the energy of the sun. This active layer is extremely effective. You only need a layer thickness
of 0.2 micrometers to absorb the energy of the sun. This is 100 times thinner
than a human hair. To give you another example, take one kilogram of the basic polymer and use it to formulate the active ink. With this amount of ink, you can print a solar cell
the size of a complete football field. So OPV is extremely material efficient, which I think is a crucial thing
when talking about sustainability. After the printing process, you can have a solar module
which could look like this … It looks a bit like a plastic foil and actually has many of its features. It’s lightweight … it’s bendable … and it’s semi-transparent. But it can harvest the energy
of the sun outdoors and also of this indoor light, as you can see with this small,
illuminated LED. You can use it in its plastic form and take advantage of its low weight
and its bendability. The first is important when thinking
about buildings in warmer regions. Here, the roofs are not designed
to bear additionally heavy loads. They aren’t designed
for snow in winter, for instance, so heavy silicon solar cells
cannot be used for light harvesting, but these lightweight solar foils
are very well suited. The bendability is important if you want to combine the solar cell
with membrane architecture. Imagine the sails
of the Sydney Opera as power plants. Alternatively, you can
combine the solar foils with conventional construction
materials like glass. Many glass facade elements
contain a foil anyway, to create laminated safety glass. It’s not a big deal to add
a second foil in the production process, but then the facade element
contains the solar cell and can produce electricity. Besides looking nice, these integrated solar cells come along
with two more important benefits. Do you remember the solar cell
attached to a roof I showed before? In this case, we install the roof first, and as a second layer, the solar cell. This is adding on the installation costs. In the case of integrated solar cells, at the site of construction,
only one element is installed, being at the same time
the envelope of the building and the solar cell. Besides saving on the installation costs, this also saves resources, because the two functions
are combined into one element. Earlier, I’ve talked about optics. I really like this solar panel — maybe you have different taste
or different design needs … No problem. With the printing process, the solar cell can change
its shape and design very easily. This will give the flexibility
to architects, to planners and building owners, to integrate this electricity-producing
technology as they wish. I want to stress that this is not
just happening in the labs. It will take several more years
to get to mass adoption, but we are at the edge
of commercialization, meaning there are several companies
out there with production lines. They are scaling up their capacities, and so are we, with the inks. (Shoe drops) This smaller footprint
is much more comfortable. (Laughter) It is the right size, the right scale. We have to come back to the right scale
when it comes to energy consumption. And making buildings carbon-neutral
is an important part here. In Europe, we have the goal to decarbonize
our building stock [by] 2050. I hope organic photovoltaics
will be a big part of this. Here are a couple of examples. This is the first commercial installation
of fully printed organic solar cells. “Commercial” means that the solar cells
were printed on industrial equipment. The so-called “solar trees”
were part of the German pavilion at the World Expo in Milan in 2015. They provided shading during the day and electricity
for the lighting in the evening. You may wonder why this hexagonal shape
was chosen for the solar cells. Easy answer: the architects wanted to have
a specific shading pattern on the floor and asked for it, and then it was printed as requested. Being far from a real product, this free-form installation hooked
the imagination of the visiting architects much more than we expected. This other application
is closer to the projects and applications we are targeting. In an office building
in São Paulo, Brazil, semitransparent OPV panels
are integrated into the glass facade, serving different needs. First, they provided shading
for the meeting rooms behind. Second, the logo of the company
is displayed in an innovative way. And of course, electricity is produced, reducing the energy footprint
of the building. This is pointing towards a future where buildings are no longer
energy consumers, but energy providers. I want to see solar cells
seamlessly integrated into our building shells to be both resource-efficient
and a pleasure to look at. For roofs, silicon solar cells
will often continue to be a good solution. But to exploit the potential
of all facades and other areas, such as semitransparent areas, curved surfaces and shadings, I believe organic photovoltaics
can offer a significant contribution, and they can be made in any form
architects and planners will want them to. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “A printable, flexible, organic solar cell | Hannah Bürckstümmer”

  1. Finally, someone has tried to come up with an alternative energy source that people might actually want, instead of relying on moral superiority and chiding to cajole people into buying ineffective or unattractive alternatives. I’d be curious to know how the economics of these cells work (I.e. what do they cost, and what sort of energy savings could they provide).

  2. I'd like to see when they came up with their ink, because a few years ago someone else came up with the same ink and actually discovered it and it's been making supercapacitors out of it.

  3. Plants and photosynthesis are definitely the future for solar …figure it out and the world is your oyster !…eat hearty my friend !…..by the way ,why is Greenland called Greenland ?….windmill got your tongue ?

  4. Now if you took that ink and you made the solar cell and then you made a supercapacitor out of the same ink using thin aluminum and the ink itself, you could probably produce a panel that's flexible and does not need a battery and can run at a low milliamp for quite some time.

  5. All Talk. No Substance… If your not going to quote the potential Joules or Watts per sq. Meter your just wasting everyone's time!
    Oh Look… Another University graduate with a patent!… IMHO University Graduates should be banned from acquiring patents while they are still students, and if they did, they should all be public!

  6. Wow one minute in and this girl knows nothing about economics, businesses, or resources. She doesn't even understand basic logic, or the long term trends in efficiency (and how even over 100 years businesses were finding great ways to reduce waste and even profit from it. I'm thinking about the massive amount of waste there used to be in the petroleum industry, how most of the crude oil was waste, until Rockefeller got his scientists to make useful products out of that waste discovering parephen and other useful products).

    If her statement about consuming more than what we have produced (she means sustainably produce) then we would be dead by next year. However every year we see increases in efficiency. She's a saleswoman. It's maybe a good product and if it is then the product will sell itself, people will be fools not to have one. But don't start your presentation with absurd lies!

  7. Of course we don't use these solutions to sustain the planet. It's simply not quite as profitable as simply taking more than our planet can regenerate. Of course governments won't do much, they are much too corrupt and large corporations have a lot of influence. We're slowly working towards it, but we could've been much further along that goal if these large corporations and governments actually pushed for these things. The way modern society is constructed heavily favors those who are willing to step on everyone and everything.

  8. Efficiency? Useful lifetime? Cost? Average power production per square foot over the course of a day? Ease of cleaning or projected increased water use?

    I'm not sure human civilization should be crammed into women's heels….

  9. Ubiquity of solar, fully distributed power, is the key goodness for society over time. Centralized power is never good, even when it's electricity or tyranny.

  10. It's a good idea for architectural design for sure. Though 8 years… means the cost of it is pretty damn expensive. Nice one!

  11. Very interested in this topic. It will be more efficient to extract the energy directly from the sun but there is the problem of the rotation of the earth.

  12. Very interesting. Looking forward to see people incorporate this technology in their designs for buildings and various items.

  13. Can we use it in mobile phones? Install a thin layer of OPV under the display so the battery could be charged when exposing display to the Sun?

  14. If the world doesn't collapse till I am dead, I am ok and I dont care about the larger time span than my life… I will let the future generation think about the problems when they appear for them, not my problem..

  15. I believe the majority of this and all ted talk audiences know enough about man’s devastating effect on our earth and it’s atmosphere in the last 100 yrs compared to anytime in earth’s natural history. We just need to apply the solutions NOW.

  16. Organic Photovoltaics are a cool concept but are not a new technology and are not commercially feasible at this point.

    According to the DOE: "The low efficiencies of OPV cells are related to their small exciton diffusion lengths and low carrier mobilities. These two characteristics ultimately result in the use of thin active layers that affect overall device performance. Furthermore, the operational lifetime of OPV modules remains significantly lower than for inorganic devices."

    Silicon based solutions are still our best option, as the presenter admits at the end.

  17. It's fascinating stuff and all, like many other TED talks inspirational, but I think solar cell companies have to shift the tone from an environmental standpoint – which is of course important but people are kinda tired of hearing -, to a more economical one.
    Because that's the thing building owners and construction companies will be convinced by and will invest on. It's a sad reality, but it is what it is.
    And I think the entire solar cell industry is mature enough and has been around for long enough to just put it out there.
    Put simply: how much investment we're talking about for a standard size building, how much more production has to scale to bring prices of those processes down, what sort of savings will those buildings have on a daily basis, what's the ROI, how much extra in construction costs we're talking about, what are the numbers for examples given, what's the maintenance cost, etc etc.
    And I know there are trappings in solar power production. It simply cannot generate as much power as more traditional technologies, but if it gets to a point where it makes sense to invest, then it should be enough for lots of people to adopt it. But it has to be presented in hard numbers. You need to get hard realistic studies of effects out there. Yes, solar is less poluting and all, but by how much? How poluting are the processes of creating said cells? How it's expected to scale with mass production? What are the advantages of having buildings producing solar power (like in an outtage, building will retain the ability to produce some power). What about batteries?
    And then stuff like, how much less CO2 is being put out by building a city full of buildings with solar panels? What jobs will it generate? What systems people are using to connect to the grid?
    Even if the answers are not totally great or favorable, people need to know. I think lots of people wouldn't mind a less efficient paradigm, and/or something that costs a bit more, given the benefits.

  18. The equasion is, how much energy do you need (X) to produce energy (Y). Right now X is aways bigger thant Y.

  19. Buenas como están disculpe, los vídeos en ingles será que pueden estar subtitulador por favor gracias

  20. Leather is a sustainable resource. Boots have there place to protect the foot. Therefore your opening point is mute.

  21. It is Allah who erected the heavens without pillars that you [can] see (Surah Ar-Rad. Verse 2)
    And the sun runs [on course] toward its stopping point. (Surah Ya-Sin. Verse 38)
    And you see the mountains, thinking them rigid, while they will pass as the passing of clouds. (Surah An Naml. Verse 88)

  22. There is only one way to reduce human consumption, it is to reduce the number of humans on the planet. And it is easy to do and painless, especially for the one that is not manufactured, and which one does not manufacture the fragility nor the suffering nor the problems of consumption.

  23. So what's the product/technology called? Can't really go look for it if I don't know what vendors would be calling the stuff. I could see myself put sun to hot water things on the roof, and the foil things on the windows, but not without knowing what it's called.

  24. Yes! I have dreamed of this technology and will hopefully be able to integrate it into my building designs in the near future!!!

  25. She seemed quite robotic. Great idea though. At MIT I saw a presentation where they could make solar cells with a 3-d printer. Maybe this is the future. Imagine designing your own solar cells.

  26. About comparison with the credit at the begining… well.. greater part of the world is actually doing just that in their personal economics 😛

  27. OK, I suppose she is referring to fossil fuels… funny thing is that all those carbons were once part of a sustainable environment on the earth and somehow now it is not.

  28. I'm thinking you could print this on some massive plastic sheet, and you could just roll it out on the ground, and back up into a compact shape

  29. OPV's have been around for a while. the efficiency of OPV is very small (<10%). silicon is >20%. another issue is photochemical decomposition. you put any polymer under the sun, and it will decompose over time, much faster than existing solar cells. it may have its place for aesthetic architecture or neat consumer goods, but it's a tough sell for actual power generation. if you want the building to be off grid, you need silicon.

  30. Wow. For the first time in awhile, I find myself currently reading several physical books at once, and the main one is "Design Professional's Guide to Zero Net Energy Buildings" by Charles Eley, rather relevant to this talk.

    Also, I am kind of drunk. Typing is hard right now. (shrug)

  31. This amazing invention may be a nice improvement in environment, but the true solution is to change american consumist lifestyle, that spreads through he world.

  32. These concepts are nice, and they would actually work, but we are facing a major problem…our obsolete monetary system is not making it possible to widely spread these technologies. You can see this easily on the reality that corporations need to make profits from people and as such, there is no money for everyone as there are no jobs for everyone to cumulate income. We need world wide change of socioeconomic system from market driven capitalism to science driven natural law resource based economy.

  33. How effective is this technology? How many percent of the suns energy can it use? Most current photovoltaics cannot make use of more than 20 percent I think – is this better? If solar becomes more widely used, we definitely need to increase percentage of the suns energy that can be used! The technology does sound pretty versatile overall and should indeed open up new uses

  34. One of the worst TED talks in a while. It's like watching a 10 minute ad. She didn't give any number nor did she say anything interesting about this technology. But hey, at least we can conclude all outdoor and industrial workers should start wearing high heels because of a smaller footprint and because they are more comfortable.

  35. she says normal solar panels make aesthetics a challange, but i think the houses at 3:14 look much better with the panles, less boring, like a designe.

  36. This was far too long presentation. Too much nonsense in between. I’m not convinced with that demonstration, even calculators at the 80’s seems to have more efficient solar panels than that printed plastic. Solar energy is a good thing but there are far better solar energy systems than this.

  37. The north pole is melting. The south pole is freezing.

    The sea level is rising at 3.2mm a year on average, that's 32 cm in 100 years, that's just over a foot.

    The earth has warmed 0.8 degrees Celsius over the last 100 years.

    The earth is not the warmest it's ever been.

    All the carbon we're spewing out used to be in the atmosphere. Oil comes from organic matter. The carbon in organic matter comes from CO2.

    The earth will never be like Venus. The atmospheric density is so high, at its surface, it would crush you, and it's 96% CO2. Earths atmosphere has much less density and it's 78% nitrogen, less than 1% is CO2. We couldn't turn earth into Venus if we TRIED.

    That 97% concensus study, READ THE EFFING STUDY. It only says that 97% of studies with keywords regarding global warming, that have keywords indicating a position one way or another, have keywords that indicating global warming is definitively happening. Most science papers report facts and don't state a position.

    We need to take care of our planet. The majority of the proposed solutions are more likely to cause more problems than they fix.

    We don't have a country with a free market anymore. America is ruled by cronyism through governmental regulations.

    We should have had nuclear power en mass long ago. Nuclear is one of the safest, and most efficient, forms of power generation. You don't need to use uranium, thorium reactors were developed and worked in the 60s.

    Fukishima was an archaic reactor. It should have been upgraded decades ago. It would have if research into nuclear power were allowed to continue, incentivized by profits generated by power plants.

    If apocalyptic anthropogenic climate change is happening, it's being exasperated by environmentalists.

  38. She's stupid. NOBODY is going to use LESS electricity in order to switch technologies. Attempt to use your brain. TED is useless and lets any clown on their stage.

  39. her english sounds horrible… they need a better pitch man

    she reminds me of those fake artificial people that spam call you on the telephone

  40. Rising of the sea levels… Such a falsity… Al Gore type bullshiter spewing propaganda to try to create fear within the gullible. Keep it up. Your Lies will continue to prove to be just that… LIES. All for politics and power of the controling class of nitwits.
    This is a sell job… all the way.

  41. sounds great…BUT now it is 2019 and in 2015 it was commercially put to use… why isnt it still not mass produced….. ooh let me guess…….indeed …. the commerce…. the big bucks greed comes first…..

  42. 10 years ago I remember a guy spearheading solar ink and he bought an old newspaper printing press to produce flexible panels in high volumes. It looked so promising but dissapeared. He shoe analogy was terrible because we all know her little designer shoe is not comfortable and it costs a ton more with no practical use besides "it matches my dress"

  43. We have all the technology to make this planet green again
    But we are not using it at all
    At the end I all comes to making money , existing corporation won't let othe companies to grow

  44. That is amazing! Solar can be everywhere without people even knowing! She's so pretty and smart I think I'm in love haha

  45. Even if the current produced is less it is still a more efficient power source. Through ease of production and weight alone will make these cells more efficient and cost-effective. I would really like to learn more. Yes, the presentation was superb.

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