Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

CleanTechnica

Clean Power

Self-Healing Solar Cells — Vascular Channels Based On Plant Leaves Allow For Self-Healing In New Solar Cells

Self-healing solar cells — possessing “vascular” networks similar to those in plant leaves — have now been created by researchers from North Carolina State University. The new solar cells are able to effectively and inexpensively restore themselves to optimal functioning thanks to their possession of a “network of channels” which mimics the organic vascular systems found in most plants.

North Carolina State University explains:

In their new paper, the researchers show that creating solar cell devices with channels that mimic organic vascular systems can effectively reinvigorate solar cells whose performance deteriorates due to degradation by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Solar cells that are based on organic systems hold the potential to be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than silicon-based solar cells, the current industry standard.

The nature-mimicking devices are a type of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), composed of a water-based gel core, electrodes, and inexpensive, light-sensitive, organic dye molecules that capture light and generate electric current. However, the dye molecules that get “excited” by the sun’s rays to produce electricity eventually degrade and lose efficiency, and thus need to be replenished to reboot the device’s effectiveness in harnessing the power of the sun.

"The design of NC State’s regenerative solar cell mimics nature by use of microfluidic channels." Image Credit: North Carolina State University

“The design of NC State’s regenerative solar cell mimics nature by use of microfluidic channels.”
Image Credit: North Carolina State University


“Organic material in DSSCs tends to degrade, so we looked to nature to solve the problem,” stated lead researcher Orlin Velev, who’s also the Invista Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NC State. “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.”

The researchers note that the selected design was tested against and compared with a variety of other designs, and that the branched channel networks that were most similar to the ones found in nature were shown to be the most effective.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy.

The new research was just published in the journal Scientific Reports.

 
Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
 
 

Advertisement
 
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

Comments

You May Also Like

Climate Change

Originally published by North Carolina State University. By Laura Oleniacz Two new studies led by a North Carolina State University researcher offer a preview...

Batteries

Sodium metal anode resists dendrite formation Originally published by National Science Foundation Replacing lithium and cobalt in lithium-ion batteries would result in a more...

Clean Power

Tapping into passive solar energy could be a step to carbon-free heating

Climate Change

By Mike England December 1 is Antarctica Day, which celebrates the anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959 and the setting aside of...

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.