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Improved high-temperature dye-sensitised solar cells

20 February 2008 News

As cost and environmental concerns drive more users away from fossil-fuel-based electricity toward renewable alternatives, researchers are exploring ways to build inexpensive yet efficient photovoltaic cells to harvest energy from the sun. One popular type of cell, made from an electrode material such as titanium dioxide sensitised with an organic dye, is relatively cheap to manufacture and operates with up to 11% efficiency.

However, these cells are impractical for most outdoor applications as they contain volatile solvents that would evaporate outdoors in warm temperatures. Writing in the journal Small, a team of researchers in Switzerland reports that they have developed a modified form of dye-sensitised titanium dioxide solar cell that does not involve volatile solvents. This allows it to remain stable for longer while still providing acceptable performance.

"A photovoltaic conversion efficiency of 7,6% was obtained under simulated full sunlight illumination, which is a record for solvent-free dye-sensitised solar cells," said Michael Grätzel, one of the authors of the report.

Grätzel and colleagues used a combination of two 'ionic liquids,' recently developed solvent-free electrolytes that behave in some ways like molten salts, as the redox electrolyte in their cells. They also incorporated a highly conjugated ruthenium-based dye to improve the performance of the system, significantly outperforming previous attempts at solvent-free dye-sensitised solar cells.

The researchers found that their system maintained its stability in the dark at temperatures of up to 80°C, and in full light at up to 60°C over 1000 hours in accelerated ageing tests, with the system retaining 90% of its performance even after the test. They believe the system can be improved still more.

"The present results are very encouraging, pointing at future opportunities to further enhance the performance of this very important solvent-free dye-sensitised solar cell system," said Grätzel.

For more information contact Patrick Cairns, Frost & Sullivan, +27 (0)21 680 3274, patrick.cairns@frost.com





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