The German government and its industry partners are to invest in making solar cells cheaper and available in more areas of application.
Bosch, the manufacturer of automotive and industrial technology, and BASF, the chemical company, each founding members of the technology initiative of Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), are to cooperate in the innovative field of organic photovoltaics (OPV).
Organic photovoltaics is the term used to describe solar cells based on organic semi-conductive materials that can generate electricity from light.
This means that, in the future, they could replace the silicon that is 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 in the long term. Furthermore, the new technology could pave the way for sustainable energy production and make solar power more competitive.
Last year, photovoltaic modules had a global market volume of 8 billion euros. The segment is expected to grow by more than 20 per cent annually between now and 2020. The BMBF will provide 60 million euros for research to develop this market, while the initiative’s current industry partners – which include BASF, Bosch, Merck (Darmstadt) and Schott (Mainz) – plan to spend up to 300 million euros.
BASF is conducting research into semi-conductive organic materials with high thermal and photo-thermal stability. The aim is that these materials should perform the function performed by silicon today; in other words, absorbing sunlight and converting it into electric power.
As part of the newly launched initiative, the Bosch Group will be looking at issues relating to industrial production.
“We want to use organic photovoltaics to make solar energy available at an affordable price”, explained Siegfried Dais, deputy chairman of the Bosch board of management, with responsibility for research and advance engineering. “At the same time we want to use this opportunity to get closer to our vision of an energy self-sufficient home”.
Bosch has already launched a number of different technologies for producing renewable energies, including solar collectors for generating hot water, large gear units for wind farms, heat pumps, as well as vegetable oil and wood pellet based burners.