The bendable devices are composed of water-based gel infused with light-sensitive molecules – the researchers used plant chlorophyll in one of the experiments – coupled with electrodes coated by carbon materials, such as carbon nanotubes or graphite.
The light-sensitive molecules get “excited” by the sun’s rays to produce electricity, similar to plant molecules that get excited to synthesize sugars in order to grow, says NC State’s Dr. Orlin Velev, Invista Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the lead author of a paper published online in the Journal of Materials Chemistry describing this new generation of solar cells.
Velev says that the research team hopes to “learn how to mimic the materials by which nature harnesses solar energy.” Although synthetic light-sensitive molecules can be used, Velev says naturally derived products – like chlorophyll – are also easily integrated in these devices because of their water-gel matrix.
Now that they’ve proven the concept, Velev says the researchers will work to fine-tune the water-based photovoltaic devices, making them even more like real leaves.
“The next step is to mimic the self-regenerating mechanisms found in plants,” Velev says. “The other challenge is to change the water-based gel and light-sensitive molecules to improve the efficiency of the solar cells.”
Velev even imagines a future where roofs could be covered with soft sheets of similar electricity-generating artificial-leaf solar cells.
“We do not want to overpromise at this stage, as the devices are still of relatively low efficiency and there is a long way to go before this can become a practical technology,” Velev says. “However, we believe that the concept of biologically inspired ‘soft’ devices for generating electricity may in the future provide an alternative for the present-day solid-state technologies.”
Researchers from the Air Force Research Laboratory and Chung-Ang University in Korea co-authored the study. The study was funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy. The work is part of NC State’s universitywide nanotechnology program, Nano@NC State.
NC State’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering is part of the university’s College of Engineering.
- kulikowski -
Note to editors: The abstract of the paper follows. Velev is currently in Europe on academic leave; please consider the time difference when attempting to contact him.
“Aqueous soft matter based photovoltaic devices”
Authors: Hyung-Jun Koo and Dr. Orlin D. Velev, NC State University; Suk Tai Chang, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, Korea; Joseph M. Slocik and Rajesh R. Naik, Air Force Research Laboratory
Published: Online Sept. 21, 2010, in Journal of Materials Chemistry
Abstract: We present a new type of photovoltaic system based on aqueous soft gel materials. Two photosensitive ions, DAS and [Ru(bpy)3]2+, were used as photoactive molecules embedded in aqueous gel. The hydrogel photovoltaic devices (HGPVs) showed performance comparable with or higher than those of other biomimetic or ionic photovoltaic systems reported recently. We suggest a provisional mechanism, which is based on a synergetic effect of the two dye molecules in photocurrent generation. We found an efficient replacement of the expensive Pt counter-electrode with copper coated with carbon materials, such as carbon nanotubes, carbon black or graphite. These Cu electrodes coated with carbon layers could drastically reduce the cost of such hydrogel devices without efficiency loss. Thus, a new class of low cost and flexible photovoltaic cells made of biocompatible matrix was demonstrated. Biologically derived photoactive molecules, such as Chlorophyll and Photosystem II, were successfully operated in aqueous gel media of such HGPVs.
Mick Kulikowski | EurekAlert!
Superconductivity research reveals potential new state of matter
17.08.2017 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory
Spray-on electric rainbows: Making safer electrochromic inks
17.08.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy