Materials Science Research Group
Chemistry experiments under microgravity condition
Solar cell researchers from Karlstad University have once again conducted experiments in zero gravity during parabolic flights in Bordeaux, France. The aim is to study how the structure of the active layer of the polymer solar cell is formed, to thereby be able to increase its efficiency.
– This is the second time we have conducted experiments during parabolic flights, says Jan van Stam, Professor of Physical Chemistry at Karlstad University. We are studying the transition from solution to thin, solid film that constitutes the active layer of the solar cell, where the sunlight is converted into electricity. When you remove gravity, structure formation slows down. This makes it possible for us to, in more detail, study how the structure of the material changes.
Rocket science applied to chemistry research
Solar cell research at Karlstad University has been granted further funding from the Swedish National Space Agency, SNSA. Later this year, the research group in chemistry and materials physics will carry out experiments under microgravity conditions on parabolic flights in Bordeaux, France. The aim is to study how the structure of the active layer of the solar cell is formed.
- We are very pleased that the SNSA continues to invest in our research, says Jan van Stam, Professor of Physical Chemistry at Karlstad University. We have also been approved by ESA, the European Space Agency, to carry out our new experiments during parabolic flights in 2022. This confirms that we are on the right track in a very competitive environment and that our research here at Karlstad University is of international importance.
Carbon Nanotubes – the New Black
Carbon nanotubes are of great interest in both scientific research and commercial applications thanks to the unique properties of the material. A new thesis at Karlstad University looks at how the atomic structure influences the different properties of the material.
- At the moment, there are too few measuring standards and no proper classification system for carbon nanotubes, says Mattias Flygare, recently qualified doctor of physics who just published his thesis. I have studied the effect of crystallinity on different properties, such as the bending stiffness and electrical conductivity of the tubes. We know that if the tubes had a perfect atomic structure, these properties would be outstanding, however, this is rarely the case in reality.
Research on more efficient organic solar cells
The research on organic solar cells at Karlstad University takes another step forward, thanks to a research grant from the Swedish Research Council.
- We are going to study the molecular interactions between the electron donating and the electron accepting molecules, says Ellen Moons, Professor of Physics and leader for the research project. We believe that this interaction is crucial for both the structure formation and charge transfer at the interface between donor and acceptor, and that it affects the efficiency of the solar cells.
Solar cell research with a new direction
Over the last decade, perovskites have received much attention in solar cell research all over the world. Perovskite solar cells combine the benefits of the high performance of conventional silicon solar cells and the low cost of polymer-based solar cells. It sounds like a winner, but there is still much research to be made before it is possible to produce perovskite solar cells commercially.
- Perovskite has a significant potential as a photovoltaic material with high power conversion efficiencies, says Ellen Moons, professor of Physics who is heading the research.
What happened to the hyped nanomaterials?
Carbon based nano materials such as graphene and carbon nanotubes were predicted a brilliant future when they were discovered. But quality problems curb the development of new products. The problem is that it is difficult to analyse the crystal structure and there are no established standard methods for classifying the materials. But now, researchers at Karlstad University are close to a solution.
”Carbon atoms must sit perfectly in a well-organised crystal structure at precise distances, but they don’t in the commercially available materials on the market today,” says Krister Svensson, associate professor of physics.