Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Self-Healing Solar Cells ‘Channel’ Natural Processes

09.08.2013
To understand how solar cells heal themselves, look no further than the nearest tree leaf or the back of your hand.

The “branching” vascular channels that circulate life-sustaining nutrients throughout leaves and hands serve as the inspiration for solar cells that can restore themselves efficiently and inexpensively.


Dr. Orlin Velev, NC State University

NC State’s regenerative solar cell mimics nature by using microfluidic channels.

In a new paper, North Carolina State University researchers Orlin Velev and Hyung-Jun Koo show that creating solar cell devices with channels that mimic organic vascular systems can effectively reinvigorate solar cells whose performance deteriorates due to degradation by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Solar cells that are based on organic systems hold the potential to be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than silicon-based solar cells, the current industry standard.

The nature-mimicking devices are a type of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), composed of a water-based gel core, electrodes, and inexpensive, light-sensitive, organic dye molecules that capture light and generate electric current. However, the dye molecules that get “excited” by the sun’s rays to produce electricity eventually degrade and lose efficiency, Velev says, and thus need to be replenished to reboot the device’s effectiveness in harnessing the power of the sun.

“Organic material in DSSCs tends to degrade, so we looked to nature to solve the problem,” Velev said. “We considered how the branched network in a leaf maintains water and nutrient levels throughout the leaf. Our microchannel solar cell design works in a similar way. Photovoltaic cells rendered ineffective by high intensities of ultraviolet rays were regenerated by pumping fresh dye into the channels while cycling the exhausted dye out of the cell. This process restores the device’s effectiveness in producing electricity over multiple cycles.”

Velev, Invista Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NC State and the lead author of a paper in Scientific Reports describing the research, adds that the new gel-microfluidic cell design was tested against other designs, and that branched channel networks similar to the ones found in nature worked most effectively.

Study co-author Dr. Hyung-Jun Koo is a former NC State Ph.D. student who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Note to editors: The abstract of the paper follows.

“Regenerable Photovoltaic Devices with a Hydrogel-Embedded Microvascular Network”
Authors: Hyung-Jun Koo and Orlin D. Velev, NC State University
Published: Aug. 5, 2013, in Scientific Reports
DOI: 10.1038/srep02357
Abstract: Light-driven degradation of photoactive molecules could be one of the major obstacles to stable long term operation of organic dye-based solar light harvesting devices. One solution to this problem may be mimicking the regeneration functionality of a plant leaf. We report an organic dye photovoltaic system that has been endowed with such microfluidic regeneration functionality. A hydrogel medium with embedded channels allows rapid and uniform supply of photoactive reagents by a convection-diffusion mechanism. A washing-activation cycle enables reliable replacement of the organic component in a dye-sensitized photovoltaic system. Repetitive restoration of photovoltaic performance after intensive device degradation is demonstrated.
Dr. Orlin Velev, 919/513-4318 or odvelev@ncsu.edu
Mick Kulikowski, News Services, 919/515-8387 or mick_kulikowski@ncsu.edu

Mick Kulikowski | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.ncsu.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Batteries with better performance and improved safety
23.11.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

nachricht Researchers take next step toward fusion energy
16.11.2017 | Texas A&M University

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Underwater acoustic localization of marine mammals and vehicles

23.11.2017 | Information Technology

Enhancing the quantum sensing capabilities of diamond

23.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Meadows beat out shrubs when it comes to storing carbon

23.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>