New developments

Changes in solar energy

The solar industry has changed - and not just in the last few months. New technologies and materials have shaken up the solar energy market and made it competitive. Whereas in the past, large areas on roofs or fields were needed to generate solar energy, today there are efficient products that can easily be attached to a wide range of facades without much effort.

Aug 30 2022

Organic photovoltaics - next generation solar energy.

While many still think of solar energy in terms of panels on the roof of a house, bus stop, or even the roof of a car, has missed out on the industry's innovations in recent years. Of course, traditional solar panels are still used extensively, but new developments clearly demonstrate the potential of solar energy that can be used on a mass scale. One development that is currently driving the industry is organic photovoltaics. In a way, organic photovoltaics (OPV) is the "brother" of the now widely used organic LED (OLED) technology, which uses materials from organic chemistry to convert electricity out of light. 

With HeliaSol, the Dresden-based company Heliatek is focusing on tapping previously unaddressable solar power potential - such as on the facade of a biogas plant. © Heliatek / RWE

The physical principle of how sunlight is converted into electricity is identical in both organic and inorganic technologies, but the main difference is in the materials themselves. Inorganic materials are sometimes toxic, are increasingly subject to the problem of limited availability, and are generally very difficult to dispose of in an environmentally friendly way - in other words, they are not really green. Organic materials, on the other hand, such as those invented by Heliatek, are non-toxic, consist of abundant elements, and are easy to dispose of in an environmentally friendly manner at the end of their life cycle. The Dresden-based solar technology company, which has its headquarters not far from the former "Solar Valley", has invested in the next generation of solar energy and developed a stick-on solar power plant with its new product HeliaSol.

HeliaSol - Stick-on solar energy

HeliaSol transforms buildings into clean solar power plants for green energy generation. This ready-to-use solution from Heliatek can be used on a variety of building surfaces. Whether it's concrete, glass or metal, the film can be firmly fixed to a variety of structures thanks to an integrated backing adhesive, and can be connected and used immediately thanks to the already integrated connection cables. 

Bendable, lightweight and barely thicker than a lasagna noodle: the HeliaSol solar foil from Heliatek. © Heliatek

Due to the special layer structure of the solar film, based on plastic film and the very thin organic photovoltaic layer, HeliaSol has a light total weight of less than 2kg per square meter. For comparison, normal solar modules weigh about 15-20kg per square meter plus the often necessary metal substructure. The solar foil can be bent vertically and horizontally up to a radius of 20cm. Thus, even round roof shapes or curved surfaces can be opened up for green power generation, which was previously impossible. The organic layer of the solar films consists of many individual layers, but only has a total thickness of less than one thousandth of a millimeter. This makes the solar films ultra-light, flexible, ultra-thin and truly sustainable. 

HeliaSol demonstrates that complex substructures are no longer necessary for retrofitting buildings where there are restrictions in terms of weight, static load limitations or material permeability. Thanks to the solar film, clean solar power can be generated on roofs and facades that normally do not allow photovoltaic solutions. 

Heliatek has industrialized thermal evaporation under vacuum for the production of organic photovoltaics, which is essential for achieving very robust and highly efficient products. © Heliatek

An outlook - transparent solar cells

Scientists at Michigan State University have been working on transparent solar cells for some time. The "solar glass of the future" is completely transparent and is intended to be built into windows without anyone even seeing that solar cells are integrated into the windows. The project is led by Richard Lunt and could open up a new era in solar technology. Heliatek is also already working on a more advanced solution: HeliaFilm, an organic solar film for integration into building materials, is in the starting blocks. The new approach also considers transparent options.

Companies like Heliatek show the potential that lies within the solar energy industry. New materials, new products and new innovations are creating an upswing that is bringing solar power back into focus. 

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