Technical Feature

Technical Feature

Organic-Based Photovoltaics: Toward Low-Cost Power Generation

Sean E. Shaheen, David S. Ginley and Ghassan E. Jabbour


Harvesting energy directly from sunlight using photovoltaic technology is a way to address growing global energy needs with a renewable resource while minimizing detrimental effects on the environment by reducing atmospheric emissions. This issue of MRS Bulletin on “Organic-Based Photovoltaics” looks at a new generation of solar cells that have the potential to be produced inexpensively. Recent advances in solar power conversion efficiencies have propelled organic-based photovoltaics out of the realm of strictly fundamental research at the university level and into the industrial laboratory setting. Fabricated from organic materials—polymers and molecules—these devices are potentially easier to manufacture than current technologies based on silicon or other materials. In this introductory article, we describe the motivation for pursuing research in this field and provide an overview of the various technical approaches that have been developed to date.We conclude by discussing the challenges that need to be overcome in order for organic photovoltaics to realize their potential as an economically viable path to harvesting energy from sunlight.


  • electron acceptors;
  • energy production;
  • excitons;
  • metal oxide semiconductors;
  • nanostructures;
  • organic semiconductors;
  • photovoltaics;
  • polymers;
  • power generation;
  • quantum dots;
  • solar cells.

Sean E. Shaheen, Guest Editor for this issue of MRS Bulletin, has been a researcher for the National Center for Photovoltaics at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory since 2002, where he works on the development of novel materials for organic-based solar cells and simulation and modeling of the physics of these devices. He received his PhD in physics from the University of Arizona (1999) and performed postdoctoral research at the University of Linz, Austria, as a Lise Meitner Postdoctoral Fellow. His research interests extend to modeling of information processing in biological and other complex dynamical systems.

Shaheen can be reached by e-mail at

David S. Ginley, Guest Editor for this issue of MRS Bulletin, is a Group Manager in Process Technology and Advanced Concepts at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, leading activities in the applications of nanotechnology, organic electronics, transition-metal oxides (ferroelectric materials, rechargeable Li batteries, and transparent conductors) and inkjet printing. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder (physics) and the Colorado School of Mines (materials science). His work focuses on the development and basic science of transparent conducting oxides, ferroelectric materials, organic materials, and nanomaterials and the development of nextgeneration process technology for materials and device development (combinatorial methods, direct-write materials, composite materials, and non-vacuum processing).

Ginley holds a BS degree in mineral engineering chemistry from the Colorado School of Mines and a PhD degree in inorganic chemistry from MIT. Ginley is a fellow of the Electrochemical Society. He has published more than 320 papers and holds 24 patents. He has been honored with a Department of Energy Award for Sustained Research in Superconducting Materials and R'D 100 Awards for novel chemical etches, nanoparticle technology, ferroelectric frequency agile electronics, and alumina-based nanofibers. He has also received two FLC technology transfer awards.

Ginley can be reached by e-mail at

Ghassan E. Jabbour, Guest Editor for this issue of MRS Bulletin, is a professor of chemical and materials engineering and the technical area leader of optoelectronic materials and devices at the Flexible Display Center (FDC) at Arizona State University. Jabbour is also leads the Technical Advisory Board on Optoelectronic Materials, Devices, and Encapsulation at FDC. His research focuses on the fabrication, characterization, and testing of organic (polymeric and small-molecule) electronics and photonics. His group was the first to demonstrate the use of high-throughput printing techniques in the fabrication of organic solar cells and diodes.

Jabbour holds a PhD degree in materials science and engineering from the University of Arizona. He is associate editor of the Journal of the Society for Information Display (JSID). He was the track chair of the Nanotechnology Program for the SPIE Annual Meeting (2001–2004), and the secretary general for the Materials Secretariat of the American Chemical Society (2001). Jabbour has been involved as a chair, co-chair, or committee member for more than 40 conferences related to photonic and electronic properties of organic materials and their applications in displays and lighting, transistors and solar cells, hybrid photosensitive materials, and hybrid integration of semiconducting materials. He is an SPIE fellow and was named one of the 100 New Leaders of the USA in 2001 by Asahi Shimbun (Japan).

Jabbour can be reached by e-mail at and by telephone at 480-727-8930.