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Products and solutions, 2011-09-07, 12:00 PM

Organic photovoltaics for steel construction elements

ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe and Konarka Technologies are to work together to develop steel roof and facade elements with integrated organic photovoltaics. Konarka Technologies, a US company with a German branch in Nuremberg, is a technology leader in the area of organic photovoltaics, while the Color/Construction unit of ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe is a leading supplier of steel construction elements.

Unlike conventional silicon-based photovoltaic systems, the joint solution to be developed in the coming years will not need to be mounted on a raised structure but will integrate smoothly into the building envelope. The development will be based on PowerPlastic®, a solar module from Konarka Technologies with a photo-reactive polymer which when dissolved can be applied to various substrates. In addition to steel, suitable substrates include glass and other construction materials, as well as films and textiles.

The thin, light and flexible surface is applied to the substrate materials in a continuous process which is both cost-efficient and eco-friendly. Available in various colors, color combinations and sizes, the construction elements with organic photovoltaic cells will give planners and architects a great deal of design latitude. The technology also has other advantages: “Our product is environment-friendly and 100% recyclable,” says Alex Valenzuela, Konarka’s Vice President for Business Development in Europe.

As organic solar cells make optimum use of the sun’s energy even with unfavorable incidence angles or in weak or diffuse light, they are ideal for use on facades, where photovoltaic systems have rarely been used in the past. ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe intends to harness this potential for steel facade elements with photovoltaic functionality. During the production of construction elements, steel strip is coil coated with films, paint or plastic coatings. These continuous coating lines could also be used to apply the organic photovoltaic surface. Dr. Lars Pfeiffer is in charge of quality and development at the Color/Construction unit: “Organic photovoltaic technology can be ideally integrated into our production process. That would enable us to provide our customers with valuable additional benefits at low cost.” Alex Valenzuela adds: “In ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe we have found a competent industrial partner who – like us – uses automated roll-to-roll processes to produce high-quality steel construction elements. Our capabilities are the perfect match.”

About Konarka Technologies
Founded in 2001, Konarka Technologies is technology leader in the area of organic solar cells. Central to the technology is a photo-reactive polymer which was developed by co-founder and Nobel Laureate Dr. Alan Heeger. The company holds more than 350 patents and employs around 110 people at its main site in Lowell, Massachusetts (USA) and its branches in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Nuremberg (Germany) and Linz (Austria).

About ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe
ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe AG and its subsidiaries make up the Steel Europe business area of the ThyssenKrupp Group. With a crude steel capacity of around 15 million metric tons per year, the company is Germany’s biggest steel producer and the second-biggest manufacturer of flat carbon steel in Europe. Including its subsidiaries, ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe generated sales of around 10.8 billion euros last fiscal year and employed roughly 35,000 people. The company is focused on the high-end segment of the flat carbon steel market and is regarded as a technology leader in steel production.

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