Research Highlights

Read this in Arabic

Polymer solar cells generate hydrogen fuel

Published online 29 March 2016

Scientists develop efficient solar cells for producing hydrogen fuel.

Biplab Das

A research team from Saudi Arabia has developed a new kind of polymer solar cells that contain an active light-absorbing layer made of a novel polymer and fullerene1. These solar cells can efficiently harness solar energy and convert it into electrical energy that can electrochemically split water into hydrogen and oxygen. 

Besides harvesting and storing solar energy, these solar cells are potentially useful for generating clean hydrogen fuel that can power future automobiles. 

The scientists from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia, fabricated single-, double- and triple-junction polymer solar cells. The single-junction solar cells contained one subcell; whereas the double-junction (homo-tandem) and triple-junction solar cells had two and three identical subcells, respectively.      

The single-junction solar cells absorbed 80% of visible light. They also exhibited a power conversion efficiency of 7.75%, which increased to 8.35% in double-junction solar cells that absorbed 90% of visible light.  

It is possible to change the surface area ratio of the solar cells and the water-splitting electrodes that can change the operating voltage of the solar cells, the researchers say.  

The triple-junction solar cells showed high open voltage that could potentially be used in other fields, such as directly activating a light-emitting diode, says Yangqin Gao, the lead author of the study.


  1. Gao, Y. et al. Homo-tandem polymer solar cells with VOC >1.8 V for efficient PV-driven water splitting. Adv. Mater. (2016).