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Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells Continuing To Move Forward — Efficient Replacement For Platinum Found

The technology of dye-sensitized solar cells continues to move forward relatively rapidly, as recent advancements from the University of Malaya (UM) and the National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) are demonstrating.

Researchers there have developed a cheap, efficient replacement for the expensive platinum typically used in the cells, as well as creating a better method of synthesizing zinc oxide.

A set of figures illustrating the effect of applied voltage during electrolysis on the spacing between nanosheets (bottom) and the corresponding variations in electrical properties (top). Image Credit: University of Malaya

The scientists involved in the new work have succeeded in creating dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) with an efficiency of 1.12% — at a fraction of the cost of typical DSSCs, which utilize platinum. The new solar cells instead use bismuth telluride (Bi2Te3) nanosheet arrays.

By utilizing a new electrolysis process, the researchers were able to effectively manipulate “the spacing between individual nanosheets and hence control the thermal and electrical conductivity parameters to achieve the high efficiency of 1.12%, which is comparable to platinum devices, but at only at a fraction of the cost.” I’m not sure in what world 1.12% is a high efficiency (the record efficiency for dye-sensitized solar cells is 15%), but I guess I am missing something here.

The press release from the University of Malaya provides more:

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Malaya were working on controlling the secondary nucleation and self-assembly in zinc oxide (ZnO), a material which is currently being scrutinized for its potential applications in dye-sensitized solar cells as well as photocatalytic reactions to generate clean electricity by splitting water under sunlight.

In that work, the researchers demonstrated a new route for synthesis of various zinc oxide nanostructures using the lipophilic interactions between a novel precursor and a number of fatty acids. They are hoping to further use this method to increase the efficiency of photocatalysts in the visible regime where most of the sunlight energy lies.

According to the researchers, if this approach is successful, generating electricity is as easy as pouring some bioinert nanomaterials into a lake and fusing the split oxygen and hydrogen atoms back into water in a photoelectrochemical cell.

The new work has been detailed in a paper published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Nanoscale.

For previous stories on dye-sensitized solar cells, check out:

Carbon Nanotubes Improve, Cut Cost of Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells

Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells Achieve Record Efficiency Of 15% (2013)

Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells Reach Highest Efficiency Ever (2008, for some perspective)

More Sustainable Solar Cells From Cobalt

Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells with Carbon Nanotube Thin Films Cut Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell Costs


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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.

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