Professor Marsan has come up with solutions for two problems that, for the last twenty years, have been hampering the development of efficient and affordable solar cells. His findings have been published in two prestigious scientific journals, the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) and Nature Chemistry.
As in a conventional electrochemical cell (such as an alkaline battery), two electrodes (the titanium dioxide anode and the platinum cathode in the Graetzel cell) are placed on either side of a liquid conductor (the electrolyte). Sunlight passes through the cathode and the electrolyte, and then withdraws electrons from the titanium dioxide anode, a semiconductor at the bottom of the cell. These electrons travel through a wire from the anode to the cathode, creating an electrical current. In this way, energy from the sun is converted into electricity.
Most of the materials used to make this cell are low-cost, easy to manufacture and flexible, allowing them to be integrated into a wide variety of objects and materials. In theory, the Graetzel solar cell has tremendous possibilities. Unfortunately, despite the excellence of the concept, this type of cell has two major problems that have prevented its large-scale commercialisation:
The electrolyte is: a) extremely corrosive, resulting in a lack of durability; b) densely coloured, preventing the efficient passage of light; and c) limits the device photovoltage to 0.7 volts.
The cathode is covered with platinum, a material that is expensive, non-transparent and rare. Despite numerous attempts, until Professor Marsan's recent contribution, no one had been able to find a satisfactory solution to these problems.
Immediately following their publication in JACS and Nature Chemistry, Professor Marsan's proposals were received enthusiastically by the scientific community. Many view his contribution as a major research breakthrough on the production of low-cost and efficient solar cells.Links to the articles in JACS and Nature Chemistry:
Claire Bouchard | EurekAlert!
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