While they offer much lower efficiencies than inorganic photovoltaic cells, organic solar cells are cheaper to produce and are lightweight and flexible. This makes them suitable for a wider range of applications than rigid solar cells, including clothing and bags. Konarka has been producing its organic based photovoltaic (OPV) solar cells under the name of Power Plastic for a number of years now and the National Energy Renewable Laboratory (NREL) has just announced that Konarka’s latest organic based photovoltaic (OPV) solar cells have demonstrated a record breaking 8.3 percent efficiency.

While this is much lower than the over 40 percent efficiency record for inorganic photovoltaic solar cells, it is the highest performance recorded by NREL for an OPV solar cell. The record-breaking efficiency is for Konarka’s large area single-junction solar cell with a surface area of one square centimeter (0.155 square inch).

"The progress Konarka has achieved this year with regard to solar cell efficiency is unprecedented, representing a significant milestone for the industry," commented Howard Berke, chairman, CEO and co-founder of Konarka. "This unsurpassed NREL certification opens new doors for the commercial production of cost-effective, efficient electricity for numerous large scale applications."

Konarka’s Power Plastic is comprised of several thin layers; a photo-reactive printed layer, a transparent electrode layer, a plastic substrate and a protective packaging layer. It can be manufactured up to 60-in (152 cm) wide in virtually any length, and panels can be combined for greater output.

Konarka doesn’t produce consumer products integrating the Power Plastic itself, but makes the material for other companies to incorporate into their products. It is currently being used in products such as lanterns, backpacks, briefcases, and café umbrellas and is being tested as a component for windows and curtain walls. The new record-breaking efficiency could see Power Plastic appearing on an even wider range of products.