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Prof. Kumar Receives Solar Cell Patent

Technology to Produce New Breed of Flexible Photovoltaic Cells

Jayant Kumar, left, and Lian Li

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Prof. Jayant Kumar, director of the Center for Advanced Materials, was among a team of researchers whose invention of new solar-cell manufacturing technology recently received a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The invention features a method of fabricating sheets of dye-sensitized solar cells on a flexible metal or plastic substrate. The method uses a cross-linking agent to connect nano-size semiconductor particles and incorporates these particles into the photovoltaic cell. Funding for the research was provided by the Army Natick Soldier Systems Center in Natick.

“The cells can be mass-produced at low cost as roll-up sheets,” says Kumar. According to him, they can be made into lightweight, flexible canopies for military, commercial, residential and agricultural applications.

In addition to Kumar, the team of inventors includes Kethinni Chittibabu and Srinivasan Balasubramanian of Konarka Technologies in Lowell; Lynne Samuelson and Lian Li of the Army Natick Soldier Systems Center; Jin-An He, formerly of Konarka and now with Sun Chemical in Parsippany, N.J.; and the late Sukant Tripathy.

Tripathy was a chemistry professor at UMass Lowell and founder of the Center for Advanced Materials. He was also one of the founding scientists of Konarka and a world leader in developing and advancing nano-enabled polymer photovoltaic materials.

The patent application was submitted in 2002, two years after Tripathy’s death. “We included him in the team to acknowledge his contributions to the research,” says Kumar. “The patent is held by the University, with exclusive licensing of the technology to Konarka.”

Konarka expects commercial production of the flexible solar cells to begin by the end of the year or early in 2009.

- Edwin_Aguirre