Researchers at North Carolina State University have come up with a new way of making solar cells with a method that uses circulation much like that in plant leaves to maintain the efficiency of the cells.
Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC) are organic cells that use light-sensitive dyes to generate electricity. These cells could eventually make low-cost and more environmentally-friendly collectors for solar energy, but until now, the problem has been that the dyes eventually break down due to ultraviolet rays from the sun and lose their efficiency.
The NCSU scientists have created a cell with vascular chanels, much like the veins in a leaf, to allow them to replenish the dye and thereby maintain the efficiency of the cell. Lead author Prof. Orlin Velev describes the process: “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.”
DSSCs are made with "a water-based gel core, electrodes, and inexpensive, light-sensitive, organic dye molecules that capture light and generate electric current." The simpler, non-metallic makeup of these cells could make them less expensive to produce, and could mean less extraction of rare minerals required in order to continue to provide solar energy.
written by green commercial cleaning, October 22, 2013
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