// Blog April 11, 2023

Importance of Thermal Conductivity in Developing Composites for High-Efficiency Solar Cells

How are polymer composites used in solar cells?

Polymers, specifically organic polymers, are commonly used as the active materials in organic solar cells. Organic solar cells are a type of photovoltaic device that converts sunlight into electricity using a layer of organic semiconductor material. These materials are typically composed of conjugated polymers, which are polymers that contain alternating single and double bonds in their backbone.

The advantage of using polymers in solar cells is that they can be fabricated using inexpensive and relatively simple techniques, such as printing or coating. This makes them attractive for large-scale manufacturing and mass production. Additionally, organic polymers are lightweight, flexible, and can be made transparent, allowing for the development of flexible and transparent solar cells that can be integrated into a variety of surfaces and applications.

Polymers can also be used as a component in the electrode or substrate of the solar cell, to help improve its electrical properties and overall efficiency.

Figure 1- As solar cells are becoming lighter and more efficient – they can be increasingly incorporated into a broader range of applications turning any surface into a power source.

Why does the thermal conductivity matter?

Thermal conductivity is a critical property in the development of composites for use in solar cells. Solar cells convert light energy into electrical energy, and during this process, a significant amount of heat is generated due to the inefficiencies of the conversion process.

The thermal conductivity of a material determines how well it can dissipate heat, which is crucial for preventing the solar cell from overheating and damaging its components. Additionally, the thermal conductivity of the composite can affect the efficiency of the solar cell by affecting the temperature of the solar cell.

Figure 2- Thermal conductivity is a critical performance attribute for polymers applied in the design of solar cells. C-Therm’s Trident Thermal Conductivity Instrument provides a fast and effective means to provide quantifiable performance data.

If the composite has a low thermal conductivity, it will trap heat and cause the temperature of the solar cell to increase, leading to a reduction in the efficiency of the solar cell. Conversely, if the composite has a high thermal conductivity, it will dissipate the heat quickly, keeping the solar cell at a lower temperature and thus increasing the efficiency of the solar cell.

Therefore, it is essential to consider the thermal conductivity of the material whether you are formulating new composites for such purpose or selecting them in optimizing your solar cells design.

How can the thermal conductivity be improved?

While polymers are commonly used in the development of composites for solar cells due to their lightweight and low cost – they typically have a low thermal conductivity.  This can limit their usefulness in high-efficiency solar cells. To enhance the thermal conductivity of polymers, several approaches can be employed. One approach is to incorporate conductive fillers, such as carbon nanotubes, graphene, or metallic particles, into the polymer matrix. These fillers form a conductive network within the polymer and increase its thermal conductivity. Overall, enhancing the thermal conductivity of polymers is a critical step in developing composites for use in high-efficiency solar cells.

In summary, the thermal conductivity of composites is crucial for maintaining the efficiency and longevity of solar cells by controlling the heat generated during the conversion process.

For more information on how to measure thermal conductivity visit https://ctherm.com/thermal-conductivity-instruments/trident/

This blog post is a part of our Conductive Polymers application page.

Suggested additional reading:

Hou W, Xiao Y, Han G, Lin JY. The Applications of Polymers in Solar Cells: A Review. Polymers (Basel). 2019 Jan 15;11(1):143. doi: 10.3390/polym11010143. PMID: 30960127; PMCID: PMC6401826.

Pablo Zamora, P., & Bieger, K. (2020). Polymers in Solar Cells. IntechOpen. doi: 10.5772/intechopen.85312

R. Murad A, Iraqi A, Aziz SB, N. Abdullah S, Brza MA. Conducting Polymers for Optoelectronic Devices and Organic Solar Cells: A Review. Polymers. 2020; 12(11):2627. https://doi.org/10.3390/polym12112627

Authored by:


adam harris, ceo

Adam Harris


C-Therm Technologies


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