25th Anniversary Article: Organic Photovoltaic Modules and Biopolymer Supercapacitors for Supply of Renewable Electricity: A Perspective from Africa



The role of materials in civilization is well demonstrated over the centuries and millennia, as materials have come to serve as the classifier of stages of civilization. With the advent of materials science, this relation has become even more pronounced. The pivotal role of advanced materials in industrial economies has not yet been matched by the influence of advanced materials during the transition from agricultural to modern societies. The role of advanced materials in poverty eradication can be very large, in particular if new trajectories of social and economic development become possible. This is the topic of this essay, different in format from the traditional scientific review, as we try to encompass not only two infant technologies of solar energy conversion and storage by means of organic materials, but also the social conditions for introduction of the technologies. The development of organic-based photovoltaic energy conversion has been rapid, and promises to deliver new alternatives to well-established silicon photovoltaics. Our recent development of organic biopolymer composite electrodes opens avenues towards the use of renewable materials in the construction of wooden batteries or supercapacitors for charge storage. Combining these new elements may give different conditions for introduction of energy technology in areas now lacking electrical grids, but having sufficient solar energy inputs. These areas are found close to the equator, and include some of the poorest regions on earth.