Chinese and Swiss researchers announced earlier this week that they have reached the highest efficiency yet for dye-sensitized solar cells (Grätzel cells). The photovoltaic cells are cheaper than silicon-based solar cells, but until this week’s discovery their drawbacks have outweighed their benefits.
In the past, Grätzel cells have been inefficient at converting light into electricity, and their performance dropped after only short exposure to sunlight.
The research team, which included dye-sensitized solar cell inventor Michael Grätzel, used solar cells made with ruthenium-based dye to increase their light-harvesting ability. The new technique yielded efficiency levels as high as 10 percent—a record for this type of solar cell. Additionally, the cells retained over 90 percent of their initial output after 1,000 hours in the sun.
While silicon-based solar cells have typical efficiencies of about 12 percent, they are significantly more expensive to produce. And since the prohibitive cost of silicon solar cells prevents many homes and businesses from committing to solar energy, a cheaper solution should be welcomed.
Photo Credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Ariel Schwartz was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a contributor at Fast Company, Inhabitat, Triple Pundit, SF Weekly, and NBC Bay Area Online. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.