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Achieving sustainability of greenhouses by integrating stable semi-transparent organic photovoltaics


Semi-transparent organic photovoltaics (OPVs) are an emerging solar-energy-harvesting technology with promising applications, such as rooftop energy supplies for environmentally friendly greenhouses. However, the poor operational stability of OPVs poses challenges to their feasibility as incessantly serving facilities. Here we report a reductive interlayer structure for semi-transparent OPVs that improves the operational stability of OPVs under continuous solar radiation. The interlayer effectively suppresses the generation of radicals from the electron transport layer under sunlight and prevents the structural decomposition of the organic photoactive layer during operation. The defects that serve as the charge carrier recombination sites are nullified by the electron-donating functional groups of the reduced molecules, which improves photovoltaic performance. The semi-transparent OPVs demonstrate a power conversion efficiency of 13.5% and an average visible transmittance of 21.5%, with remarkable operational stability (84.8% retention after 1,008 h) under continuous illumination. Greenhouse results show that the semi-transparent OPV roof benefits the survival rate and growth of the crops, indicating the importance of our approach in addressing food and energy challenges.

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Fig. 1: Facilitated charge extraction and enhanced photovoltaic performance with the incorporation of the l-G interlayer.
Fig. 2: Interactions between the l-G molecule and the defects on the ZnO surface.
Fig. 3: Morphological stability of the photoactive layer on the l-G interlayer.
Fig. 4: Impedance of the organic molecule oxidation by the l-G interlayer and enhanced device stability.
Fig. 5: Plant growth in the integrated photovoltaics/photosynthesis system.

Data availability

All relevant data that support the findings of this study are presented in the article and Supplementary Information. Source data are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.


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This work is supported by the California Energy Commission (grant no. EPC-19-002). Computing resources used in this work were provided by the National Center for High Performance Computing (UHeM) of Turkey (grant no. 1008342020). C.D. would like to thank the Fulbright Turkey Commission for providing a valuable scholarship for his post-doctoral study in the United States. M.W. acknowledges financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (grant nos 12104081 and 51872036) and China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (grant no. 2022T150087). M.P. acknowledges financial support from the National Science Foundation Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) (grant no. 1856746).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



Y. Zhao and Y. Yang conceived the idea. Y. Zhao conducted the experiments and prepared the paper under the supervision of Y.Y. C.D. and I.Y. performed the DFT calculations. Z.L. prepared the samples for EQE, GIWAX and XPS measurements. Z.L. collected GIWAX data of the films. M.P. conducted the EPR measurements. Q.X. helped with the XPS measurements. M.W. and Y. Yin collected electrochemical impedance spectroscopy and TPC data under the supervision of Y.S. and J.B. Z.L. and X.W. built the PV-integrated greenhouses and did the correlated plant observation under the sunlight. B.C. and E.G.S. helped with the estimation of biomass productivity and concurrent electricity production under the supervision of K.-H.W. W.Y., Y. Zhou, D.M., E.Z., R.Z., Y.S. and K.N.H. provided helpful discussion during the project and revised the paper. All the authors discussed the results and commented on the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Minhuan Wang, Ilhan Yavuz or Yang Yang.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information

Nature Sustainability thanks Chang-Zhi Li, Jianhui Hou and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Surface morphology of the ZnO layer with and without L-G interlayer.

AFM images of the ZnO surface a, without and b, with the L-G interlayer, and three-dimensional AFM images of ZnO films c, without and d, with L-G interlayer.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Suppression of superoxide radical generation with the L-G interlayer.

EPR spectra of the ZnO films a, without and b, with the L-G interlayer.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Suppression of hydroxide radical generation with the L-G interlayer.

a, Reaction that the coumarin transforms into 7-hydroxycoumarin by reacting with hydroxide radicals. b, PL intensity change at 456 nm of the solution immersed with ZnO films with and without L-G interlayer.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Light and heat stability enhancements of unencapsulated devices.

a, PCE changes of the devices with and without L-G interlayer during 502-hour exposure under continuous illumination. b, PCE changes of the devices with and without L-G interlayer during 502-hour heating in nitrogen glovebox.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Morphological stability of the active layers on ZnO surfaces.

AFM images of the PM6/Y6 active layers on the ZnO surfaces a, c, without and b, d, with the L-G interlayer before and after heating in the nitrogen glovebox for 500 hours.

Extended Data Fig. 6 Growth condition of the mung bean in the greenhouses.

Photos that show the growth condition of the mung bean in the greenhouses with roofs of spatially segmented inorganic solar cell, semitransparent OPV, and transparent glass.

Extended Data Fig. 7 Growth condition of the wheat in the greenhouses.

Photos that show the growth condition of the wheat in the greenhouses with roofs of spatially segmented inorganic solar cell, semitransparent OPV, and transparent glass.

Extended Data Fig. 8 Growth condition of the broccoli in the greenhouses.

Photos that show the growth condition of the broccoli in the greenhouses with roofs of spatially segmented inorganic solar cell, semitransparent OPV, and transparent glass.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–9 and Tables 1–5.

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Zhao, Y., Li, Z., Deger, C. et al. Achieving sustainability of greenhouses by integrating stable semi-transparent organic photovoltaics. Nat Sustain (2023).

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