Effect of synthetic accessibility on the commercial viability of organic photovoltaics

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Energy Environ. Sci., Royal Society of Chemistry, Volume 6, Issue 3, p.711-718 (2013)




2013, 2013 and earlier


For organic photovoltaics (OPVs) to become a viable source of renewable energy, the synthesis of organic active-layer materials will need to be
scaled to thousands of kilograms. Additionally, the ultimate cost of these
materials will need to be low enough to constitute only a small fraction
of the cost of the solar cell module. In this study, we present a
quantitative analysis, based on published small-scale synthetic
procedures, to estimate the materials costs for several promising OPV
materials when produced in large quantities. The cost in dollars-per-gram
($ per g) is found to increase linearly with the number of synthetic steps
required to produce each organic photoactive compound. We estimate the
cost-per-Watt ($ per Wp) as a function of power conversion efficiency
(PCE) for an archetypal OPV structure and find that a relatively simple
molecule requiring only 3 synthetic steps will contribute a cost of 0.001
to 0.01 $ per Wp, given a solar module PCE of 10%. In contrast, a
relatively complicated molecule requiring 14 synthetic steps will
contribute costs in the range of 0.075 to 0.48 $ per Wp. Our findings
suggest that the commercial viability of an OPV technology may depend on
the synthetic accessibility of its constituent active layer materials.
Additionally, this work stresses the importance of optimizing synthetic
routes to minimize solvent and reagent usage as well as to minimize the
number of required workup procedures in the scaled production of OPV