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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/16916

Title: Strategic technology assessment of organic photovoltaics
Authors: Sebastien, Lizin
Advisors: Van Passel, Steven
Issue Date: 2014
Abstract: This dissertation aims at answering the question: “Are organic photovoltaics in its current state a way to pursue for public institutes targeting technology transfer?”. To this end, a strategic technology assessment approach has been applied to gain insights from the supply side (chapter 2), the social desirability (chapter 3), and the demand side of technology creation (chapters 4 – 5). This dissertation, for the first time, combines insights from these three angles to provide an answer on organic photovoltaics’ marketability. The first chapter illuminates the process of technology transfer and development to sketch the context of the research problem at hand. Technology transfer and development entails transferring a technology from inside the walls of academia to interested third parties. A crucial step herein is the assessment of the technology under revision. Technology assessment verifies whether a technology is worth pursuing from a societal point of view and is seen as a first condition to cross the valley of death. Strategic technology assessment specifically entails those processes supporting specific actors in formulating their strategy with respect to a specific technological development. The second chapter identifies the development status of organic photovoltaics (OPV) by combining the results of a patent landscape analysis with the Dynamics of Innovation model. Such a combination has never been used on organic photovoltaics, but is highly suited as their development faces challenges on both product and process innovation. Analysing the patenting activity on OPV devices, substrates, and encapsulation materials provides a supply side perspective that can be divided further into a historical, organizational, geographical, and technological point of view. Such an exercise is instrumental for private and public organizations aiming at technology creation. The OPV technology was found to be still residing in the fluid development phase, indicating the lack of dominant design, seeing that activity on product innovation outnumbers that on process innovation. The third chapter analyses OPV’s environmental impact by reviewing the existing literature on life cycle analysis (LCA). This branch of product-related research has focused on the environmental impact of single-junction bulk heterojunction polymer solar cells using a P3HT/PC60BM active layer blend processed on semi-industrial pilot lines in ambient surroundings. Organic photovoltaics’ environmental impact was found to be strongly decreasing through continuous innovation of the manufacturing procedures. Still, results point towards environmental sustainability being disregarded on the materials’ side in the quest for higher efficiencies. These findings are of value for the scientific community surrounding OPV development and policy makers in charge of R&D funding schemes. The determinants of consumer demand for OPV are assessed by means of discrete choice experiments. This technique allows quantifying consumers’ preferences for multiple product characteristics that may be outside of the technology frontier. The following two chapters (i.e. chapters 4 and 5) are dedicated to setting up and analysing the responses to this stated preference valuation technique. These chapters share a single theme: consumer preferences for solar cells directly powering consumer electronics. Most photovoltaic technologies on the market today were improved in the consumer electronics market segment and a similar evolution has been envisioned for OPV. The fourth chapter quantifies consumer preferences for solar cells directly powering the class of goods of consumer electronics. From respondents’ choices it was deduced that in order to increase chances of market uptake, organic photovoltaics would have to increase in both lifetime and efficiency. However, also a positive willingness to pay was found for better looking and more easily integrateable solar cells. Moreover, from a methodological point of view, the need for incorporating both preference and decision making heterogeneity was shown. The fifth chapter explores how much respondents are willing to pay for extending smartphones’ battery life and specifically whether a significant interaction can be found with built-in photovoltaics. To that end, a dual-layer, homogenous population averaged, Bayesian D-efficient, pivot design was constructed. A positive willingness to pay to increase battery life amongst respondents was identified. However, respondents were indifferent about the tool used to obtain this prolongation. Additionally, it was found that incorporating the dual choice format is helpful in alleviating the bias resulting from a majority of respondents that are not willing to abandon their current device. The results of both chapters are of interest to the scientific community surrounding the development of OPV, private companies trying to commercialise OPV, and the manufacturers of consumer electronics. In summary, the organic photovoltaic technology is an environmentally benign innovation which still finds itself in the fluid development phase. Its competitive advantages were found to lie in people’s positive valuation for more esthetically pleasing and more easily integrateable solar cells and hence more functional products. Its main weaknesses for commercialisation are their current lower levels of efficiency and lifetime compared to their substitutes. Even maintaining the idle state for smartphones for instance is out of reach for OPV. Further market research is required into devices requiring energy in the µWh/day-mWh/day power range if one is keen on starting the development pathway as soon as possible. Without such a demand being clearly identified, technology transfer from research laboratories to interested third parties will not yield immediate return on investment for the purchaser (i.e. the manufacturer of the end product). Joint innovation may provide the answer needed here to reduce a private company’s business risk.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/16916
ISBN: 9789089130273
Category: T1
Type: Theses and Dissertations
Appears in Collections: PhD theses
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