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Energy

106: Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell

Problem:

Although multi-junction silicon solar cells have achieved astounding efficiencies of over 40%, they still require sunlight.

Solution:

Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC) only require daylight.


This is because they mimic the ability of plants to capture photons of light and turn them into electricity. This is achieved by using special dyes to capture the energy in light at different wavelengths, just like chlorophyll pigments in plants.

As compared to conventional silicon solar cells, DSSCs have the ability to capture ambient diffuse daylight and weaker sunlight. They can also be integrated into liquids and gels, hence allowing solar cells to be tinted and installed on window panels.

Over the past two decades, conversion efficiencies have reached 16 % and excellent stability has been attained, rendering the DSSC a credible alternative to conventional p-n junction PV converters.

When they were developed in the early 1990s by Michael Grätzel of Switzerland and Brian O’Regan of the University of California at Berkeley, DSSCs had an efficiency of 7 %, since increased to 16 % by using new pigments as light harvesters in particular metal perovskites.

In 2008 G24 Power, a company in Newport, Wales went into mass production of DSSCs, trade-named GCells. One machine creates rolls of cells up to 1,640 ft. (500 m) long and 6 in. 15 cm) wide. A secondary DSSC manufacturing process customizes and finishes the GCell into a module to suit the size requirements of the customer.

An interconnect between the GCell module and the product mating printed circuit board (PCB) is added, and finally the GCell module is encapsulated to provide environmental protection. A 106,000 sq. yard ( 89,000 m²) factory can produce more than 550,000 yards (503,000 m) of lightweight flexible large GCell modules per year.

They are employed in back packs to provide power for portable electronics (computers, cell phones, tablets etc.) Using DSSC, Pro12 rugby league installed iBeacon technology in their home stadium, BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, Wales. Manufacturer G24, a beacon and energy innovation company, installed all of the parts in the stadium, crafting a low-power and sustainable option for the rugby team.

G24 is supported by its R&D laboratory at the EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), Switzerland plus a product development and integration team in Dongguan, China.

Various approaches have been used to prevent electrolytic leaking with DSCCs by using H2-reduced carbon, ionic liquid or wet-laid PET membrane electrolytes.

Sony has developed DSSC panels for car battery charging. The production is presently scaled up at SICCAS, a research-based enterprise wholly financed by the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, in China.

Eunkyoung Kim and colleagues have paired a DSSC with polymer films to make an even more efficient hybrid which, although it is a great deal more expensive than others, has an increased solar energy production that far outweighs the higher cost.

The conductive polymer known as PEDOT is layered with a DSSC, then placed atop a pyroelectric thin film and a thermoelectric device, both of which can convert heat into electricity.

The result is a contraption that harnesses solar energy at a rate of more than 20 % higher than the solar cell on its own. This is made possible because the hybrid cell can generate electricity from the sun’s heat as well as light.

What you can do: If your locality gets mediochre sunlight, use DSSCs.

Discover solution 107: No soap dishwashing

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