New Zealand Researchers Experiment with Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells

In '05, Tim took note of Australian company Dyesol, which has been working on the development of titanium dioxide solar cells for over a decade. It appears that something of a race towards this technology is developing "Down Under," as Massey University's Nanomaterials Research Centre (New Zealand) has released news about its own research to "enable New Zealanders to generate electricity from sunlight at a 10th of the cost of current silicon-based photo-electric solar cells." The Centre's Dr. Wayne Campbell and colleagues have developed a range of colored dyes that can be used in "dye-sensitized solar cells." According to Science Daily,

The synthetic dyes are made from simple organic compounds closely related to those found in nature. The green dye Dr Campbell (pictured) is synthetic chlorophyll derived from the light-harvesting pigment plants use for photosynthesis.

Other dyes being tested in the cells are based on haemoglobin, the compound that give blood its colour.

Dr Campbell says that unlike the silicon-based solar cells currently on the market, the 10x10cm green demonstration cells generate enough electricity to run a small fan in low-light conditions – making them ideal for cloudy climates. The dyes can also be incorporated into tinted windows that trap to generate electricity.

Campbell and team are also touting the superiority of the titanium-based cells used with the dyes, as the material is "plentiful, renewable and non-toxic," and also doesn't require the expensive and energy-intensive refinement of silicon.

Like Dyesol, the New Zealanders still have to test their dyes in commercially-viable materials like roofing tiles and wall panels.

Of course, we're rooting for both teams, and others working to develop third-generation solar cells that could eliminate the cost premiums associated with current products. If cost predictions are accurate, it's hard to imagine a reason why consumers wouldn't make the switch to solar. ::Science Daily via chr4 at Hugg

Tags: New Zealand