Solar cells have attracted global attention as one of the cornerstones of alternative energy. In theory, it seems to make abundant sense to tap into the energy of the sun to convert light to electricity with little or no emission of noxious pollutants.
However, in practical terms, progress has been slow because of technological impediments and the many different factors that need to be optimized to obtain stable and high-efficiency devices. Dye-sensitized solar cells based on dye molecules adsorbed onto titanium dioxide electrodes have emerged as one of the most attractive solar-cell constructs, combining low cost and relative ease of fabrication with high-efficiency performance. Indeed, state-of-the-art solar cells with this architecture show greater than 11% light-conversion efficiency.
However, the catch is that these high-efficiency solar cells typically use volatile organic solvents as electrolytes, which essentially precludes their use in outdoor applications because of the high vapor pressure of the solvents. Solvent-free solar cells fabricated so far show poor performance owing to the high viscosity of the alternative electrolytes. Now, a team of researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland have fabricated a solvent-free dye-sensitized solar cell based on a binary ionic liquid electrolyte. These devices show a light-conversion efficiency of 7.6% under simulated sunlight conditions, which sets a new record for a solvent-free device.
Shaik Zakeeruddin, Michael Grätzel, and their colleagues have used a mixture of two ionic liquids as the redox electrolyte in conjunction with a novel highly conjugated ruthenium-based dye to prepare a solvent-free solar cell. Ionic liquids essentially have a vapor pressure of zero, which makes them preferable even to robust and low-volatile organic solvents. However, the typically high viscosities of ionic liquids and the fact that most of the promising ionic liquids are composed of iodide ions have precluded their application in viable cells since iodide ions tend to have a deleterious impact upon the photoconversion efficiency by quenching the dye sensitizer. Grätzel and co-workers have tackled these challenges by adding in a low-viscosity ionic liquid comprising an inert anion. The low viscosity helps to overcome mass-transfer challenges, whereas the inert anion counteracts the deleterious influence of the iodide anions. The obtained solar cells show a record 7.6% conversion efficiency. More importantly, these cells are stable at 80 °C in the dark and under visible-light soaking at 60 °C for over a thousand hours, which points to the possibility of their use in outdoor applications in warm climates. The solvent-free nature of the electrolyte also suggests that it may be possible to construct flexible and lightweight devices based on these electrolytes.
“This is a big step in the search for nonvolatile electrolytes”, said Zakeeruddin, adding that the performance of devices based on ionic liquids had lagged so far behind that it was widely thought that these systems would be limited to indoor applications at low lighting levels. Grätzel added that the results indicate that it should be possible to further optimize the performance of these solvent-free systems.
Michael Grätzel | EurekAlert!
Multiregional brain on a chip
16.01.2017 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter
16.01.2017 | Washington State University
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.01.2017 | Information Technology
18.01.2017 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation