Konarka, the flagship company of organic solar cells in USA and Europe, filled bankruptcy yesterday 1st june in Massachusetts.
According to BloombergBusinessweek , the company had raised at least $189 million in venture capital since 2001. Konarka together with other thin film solar cell producers succeeded to attract strong investment when the price of polysilicon, the raw material in conventional panels, steadily increased and peaked at $475 a kilogram in 2008. After major supply facilities started operation, the material’s average spot price has since fallen to $23.20 a kilogram. The price of the silicon panels fell 50 percent due to oversupply and production expansion in China.
Howard Berke, chairman, president and CEO of Konarka, said, “Konarka has been unable to obtain additional financing, and given its current financial condition, it is unable to continue operations. This is a tragedy for Konarka’s shareholders and employees and for the development of alternative energy in the United States.”
Organic solar cells are made with a combination of organic materials that even in small quantities absorb light with great efficiency and produce a photocurrent. The technology is potentially very powerful for the roll-to-roll or printed production of lightweight, flexible solar cells. Along the 2000 decade the power conversion efficiencies where not impressive, but in the last years the discovery of new materials that absorb a wider portion of the solar spectrum, and the control of morphologies of the blend and contact, has sent the efficiencies ramping up past 10%. Despite the unfortunate fate of the pioneering company, the demonstrable progress in efficiencies and robustness of materials and devices that we have witnessed, make this solar cell technology a powerful candidate for large scale renewable electricity production. The major problem is still the stability of the solar cell, that’s why many technological efforts are directed towards robust encapsulation that will counteract the degradation of the organic materials under photovoltaic operation caused mainly by atmospheric gasses penetration. Another strong line of development is the construction of tandem cells, that couple two or more cells in series for more optimal harvesting and treatment of the solar photons. A number of European FP7 projects are improving these organic solar cell technologies focusing on the integration of solar cells in buildings, see