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 New materials: Growing polymer pelts
19.11.2018 | Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)

nachricht Why geckos can stick to walls
19.11.2018 | Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First diode for magnetic fields

Innsbruck quantum physicists have constructed a diode for magnetic fields and then tested it in the laboratory. The device, developed by the research groups led by the theorist Oriol Romero-Isart and the experimental physicist Gerhard Kirchmair, could open up a number of new applications.

Electric diodes are essential electronic components that conduct electricity in one direction but prevent conduction in the opposite one. They are found at the...

Im Focus: Nonstop Tranport of Cargo in Nanomachines

Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.

Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helping to Transport Proteins Inside the Cell

21.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Meta-surface corrects for chromatic aberrations across all kinds of lenses

21.11.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Removing toxic mercury from contaminated water

21.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>