Organic solar materials analysed by the millions


THE SEARCH for semiconductor materials suited for organic solar technology has been made easier, with Harvard and IBM working together to launch a free database documenting the characteristics of millions of compounds.

The Clean Energy project from Harvard screened the 2.3 million organic, carbon compounds utilising the World Community Grid, an IBM-managed crowd-sourced virtual supercomputer.

Approximately 1,000 of the molecular structures that were characterized in Harvard's research show a potential to convert 11% or more of captured sunlight into electricity, while 35,000 may achieve an efficiency of 10% or more.

Most organic cells explored to date only convert 4% to 5% of sunlight into electricity.

The World Community Grid harnesses the surplus computer power donated by volunteers. This supercomputer allowed the Harvard Clean Energy Project to conduct the most extensive investigation of quantum chemicals ever performed.

This has yielded information on millions of new organic compounds, which can be used to help advance the development of organic semiconductors, new materials, and ultimately, electricity-generating devices such as solar cells.

Harvard is open sourcing the information it compiled on these compounds, which scientists are invited to continue investigating.

The resource can be accessed at