Is there a market for a solar powered hat? If polymer solar cells can eventually go into production – there could be.

The Risø DTU, the National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy at the Technical University of Denmark, which is just outside of Copenhagen in the town of Roskilde, serves as a research and manufacturing facility for solar cells, particularly organic solar cells. Formally focusing on nuclear energy, Risø DTU switched over to sustainable energy as Denmark began to grow as a center for sustainable development.

Currently, solar is not one of Denmark's big green industries. The country has minted Vestas, the wind giant, and Danfoss, one of the major providers of equipment in water, as well as a number of biomass companies. Nonetheless, the DTU has been conducting research in the field in the hope of spinning out startups. Like Ireland, Denmark is aggressively trying to use university labs as incubation centers.

"Solar energy must become available to all and OPV potentially possess this ability in terms of a low manufacturing cost, a high manufacturing speed and significant scalability," said Torben Nielsen, the innovation business manager at the lab.

A focus lately has been on polymer solar cells. Risø DTU has reached 2.4 percent efficiency on full roll-to-roll coating in ambient atmosphere, with a lifetime of about 1,000 hours and is still conducting research and tests for better efficiency. The group has developed this cell to be air-stable, not needing a capsule to protect it against oxygen and water vapor. DTU aims to install these polymer cells not just in large scale, but also on things such as polymer solar powered hats with built in radios.    

Risø DTU has collaborated with the Copenhagen business school to train students to run tests on the solar cell in Zambia. In addition to this, the group goes into local classrooms and allows the children to directly use the solar cells in order to spread education.    

Photo of a solar cell via Risø DTU.