Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Towards low-cost solar cells based on abundant metals

02.05.2012
Following the tragic effects of the Tsunami in 2011, there is an imperative to find energy sources to replace nuclear power.
Many technologies are actively under investigation, but a neglected aspect is the sustainability of the material requirements. A highly efficient process based on extremely rare materials is unlikely to enter the mainstream. In an article in the flagship journal Chemical Communications, chemists of the University of Basel describe a paradigm-shifting approach to sustainable and renewable photovoltaic devices.

Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) consist of a semiconductor, titanium dioxide, which is coated with a colored dye. The dye absorbs sunlight and injects an electron into the semiconductor. This is the primary event leading to the photocurrent. Researchers Nik Hostettler and Ewald Schoenhofer in the group of Professors Ed Constable and Catherine Housecroft from the University of Basel have made two breakthroughs. Firstly, they have developed a new strategy for making and attaching colored materials to the surface of titanium dioxide nanoparticles and, secondly, they have shown for the first time that simple compounds of the readily available metal zinc may be used. Project Officer Dr Biljana Bozic says that the key discovery was finding a method for the simultaneous synthesis of the dye and its attachment to the semiconductor surface.

Colorful dyes from gray zinc
The discovery that zinc dyes can be used is most unexpected. Constable states that most chemists consider zinc to be a "boring" element, as most of its compounds are colourless. However, in course of other work related to next-generation lighting devices, his team discovered new highly-colored organic compounds that could bind to zinc to give new coloured materials. Although the devices are not yet particularly efficient, this observation opens the way to new generations of DSCs with hitherto unconsidered types of dyes.

Conventional DSCs use ruthenium dyes, but ruthenium is very rare and expensive (3,500 Swiss Francs/2,990 Euro per kilogram). Recently, this research team demonstrated that dyes from abundant and relatively inexpensive copper (7.5 Swiss Francs/6.3 Euro per kilogram) were effective in DSCs and the extension to cheap zinc (1.8 Swiss Francs/1.5 Euro per kilogram) compounds further increases the sustainability of the materials science. "This is a significant step towards our dream of coupling photovoltaics and lighting in an intelligent curtain which can store solar energy during the day and function as a lighting device at night. This is at the core of our ERC research programme Light-In, Light-Out", Ed Constable comments.

Full bibliographic information
Biljana Bozic-Weber, Edwin C. Constable, Nik Hostettler, Catherine E. Housecroft, Ralf Schmitt and Ewald Schönhofer
The d10 route to Q1 dye-sensitized solar cells: step-wise assembly of zinc(II) photosensitizers on TiO2 surfaces
Chemical Communications (2012) | doi: 10.1039/c2cc31729j

Media contact
Professor Edwin C. Constable, University of Basel, Department of Chemistry, Tel: +41 (0)61 267 1001, sec: +41 (0)61 267 1022, E-mail: Edwin.Constable@unibas.ch

Reto Caluori | Universität Basel
Further information:
http://www.unibas.ch
http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/c2cc31729j

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Serendipity uncovers borophene's potential
23.02.2017 | Northwestern University

nachricht Switched-on DNA
20.02.2017 | Arizona State University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>