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.
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