Blue Jeans Hold Secret To Making Better Solar Cells

blue jeans on clothes line photo

Photo via lifecreations via Flickr CC

Researchers at Cornell University have found a seemingly simple solution to creating more efficient solar cells. It turns out that particular molecules found in blue jeans and some ink dyes can be used in a process for assembling a structure called "covalent organic framework" or COF, which can help create cheaper, flexible solar cells. While organic materials haven't proven very easy to use so far for creating solar cells, the researchers are finding that these molecules found in every-day materials might be just what we needed. The process uses phthalocyanines, which are common industrial dyes similar in structure to chlorophyll. It can absorb almost the entire solar spectrum, so is ideal for maxium solar cell efficiency. By using this molecule and a new process, the researchers have come up with something special.

Life Sciences reports, "The strategy uses a simple acid catalyst and relatively stable molecules called protected catechols to assemble key organic molecules into a neatly ordered two-dimensional sheet. These sheets stack on top of one another to form a lattice that provides pathways for charge to move through the material."

Not only is it simple to build, but the structures can be taken apart and re-made to correct any errors. So far, the research is yielding just a structure for a solar cell, not an actual solar cell. But the researchers hope that it is a model that can be used in manufacturing more efficient solar cells in the near future.

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