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Solar power to dye for
10 May 2012
Researchers at the University of Turku believe that flexible, lightweight and inexpensive dyes could be used to harvest the power of the sun rather than our relying on costly and fragile semiconductor solar panel that use crystalline silicon.
Writing in the International Journal of Technology, Policy and Management this month, Jongyun Moon and colleagues Aulis Tuominen and Arho Suominen, explain that dye-sensitised solar cells (DSCs) are set to become a ubiquitous source of energy without the complex and expensive clean-room manufacturing processes associated with current solar panels. They point out that the rapid increase in research into novel solar energy conversion technology looks set to revolutionise the industry making electricity generation accessible to all without government or other subsidies.
Solar power is an essential part of the green energy mix, but adoption has been limited in many parts of the world where government subsidies and financial incentives have not been in place. However, as part of a sustainable approach to electricity generation, it offers a clear view of a future in which domestic supply relies less and less on grid power systems or else provides a localised grid for remote places, particularly in sunny climes. Photovoltaic solar cells based on poly-crystalline silicon are the most commonly used devices, having first been used as space satellite technology back in the 1950s and 1960s.
In a DSC, sunlight hits a layer of the white pigment titanium dioxide, the solar energy absorbed then sucks electrons from dye molecules in a layer beneath this coating, thus generating a flow of electrons and producing a current.
However, Moon and colleagues suggest that despite the maturity of the silicon technology DSCs could ultimately displace it simply because they are easier and cheaper to manufacture. That said, current DSCs are less efficient than silicon devices and so much development work remains to be undertaken over the coming years.