Our materials are already being used to manufacture high-performance solar cells for satellites and missions to the planets. Yet Merck is also working to utilize solar energy on Earth. Above all, building façades and roofs offer extensive surfaces for climate-friendly power generation based on organic photovoltaics (OPV). Only one kilogram of OPV can cover the size of a football field. Merck develops and produces inks based on semiconducting polymers for OPV modules. These are one hundred times thinner than a hair and are printed by means of simple methods similarly to a newspaper. Therefore, the cost-efficient solar cells can be used on both rigid and flexible substrates. The extremely lightweight and flexible organic solar foils open up future-oriented applications. OPV elements can be integrated on all kinds of surfaces – such as electrical devices, cars or clothing. They also can be applied on curved surfaces like a second skin. Or even on “trees”. The components from Merck were part of the solar trees at the EXPO Milano 2015. These plant-like objects are twelve meters tall and generate electricity by means of numerous OPV modules. They were recently installed at Merck headquarters in Darmstadt. “We are working intensively to increase the application possibilities and efficiency levels of printable organic solar cells,” says Thomas Kietzke, Head of OPV in the Advanced Technologies business unit.
There is amazing potential not only in the sun, but also in carrots. In 1888, Friedrich Reinitzer, a chemist, investigated cholesterol, which he extracted from the root vegetable. In doing so, he noticed that the substance had two melting points – and happened to discover liquid crystals. The scientific community was impressed. And in 1904, Merck produced liquid crystals at the request of Otto Lehmann, a physicist. The only problem was that no practical application could be found at the time for the curious scientific phenomenon. So research slumbered again until 1968 – exactly 300 years after the company was founded – when a few young researchers at Merck devoted themselves to liquid crystals (LCs). They discovered that the molecules were ideally suited for manufacturing displays. The first liquid crystal displays were soon being built into wristwatches and pocket calculators. Display panels, televisions, computers, tablets and smartphones followed later. Technological development gathered momentum, demand grew significantly – and Merck is the global market leader to this day.EXPLORE MORE