Solar panels are generally made of silicon and require a minimum threshold of light to collect and store energy. Instead of using silicon, researchers have long explored the alternative to dye sensitive devices.
The compound is a photosensitizer, which means that it promotes chemical reactions in the presence of light. It has many potential applications for improving the efficiency of modern technologies, from solar panels that generate electricity to cell phones.
The study, published March 16 in Nature Chemistry, was conducted by researchers in the laboratory of assistant chemistry professor Carsten Milsmann with the support of his CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation.
These technologies currently rely on precious metals, such as iridium and ruthenium, to function. However, only limited supplies of these materials remain in the world, making them non-renewable, difficult to access and expensive.
We have seen little effort in studying the most abundant metals, titanium and zirconium, as they are often not that easy to work with. Precious metals have always been the gold standard due to their favorable chemical properties that make them easier to use and study, and this is mainly how it has been done in the field. We hope to change that.
The Milsmann compound is made from zirconium, which is much more abundant and easier to access, making it a more sustainable and cost effective option. The compound is also stable under a variety of conditions, such as changes in air, water, and temperature, making it easy to work in a variety of environments.
Since the compound can convert light into electrical energy, it could be used in the make more efficient solar panels.
Solar panels are normally made from silicon and require a minimum threshold of light to collect and store energy. Instead of using silicon, researchers have long studied the alternative of dye-sensitive devices, in which theColor molecules collect light and work in low light conditions. As an added benefit, it also allows production of semi-transparent components. To date, the dyes needed are highly dependent on the valuable ruthenium material, but Milsmann’s new compound could potentially replace it in the future.
The problem with most solar panels is that they don’t perform well on cloudy days. They are quite efficient, inexpensive, and have a long lifespan, but they need strong lighting conditions to function effectively. One solution is to create dye-sensitive versions, in which a colored compound absorbs light to generate electricity in all weather conditions. In the future, we could design energy-producing buildings, essentially turning your building’s facade, including all of its windows, into a power station.
On the other hand, the compound could also be used in organic light emitting diodes, which convert electrical energy into light, essentially reversing the function of a solar panel. This characteristic makes the compound a potential light source for make cell phone screens more efficient.
Many cell phone screens contain iridium, another precious metal compound that does exactly what our compound does. The advantage of having a light emitting diode is that most of its energy is converted into light. In the past, light sources were inefficient because they converted only a small part of the energy they received into light.
The scientists’ next step is to make the compound soluble in water so that it can potentially be used in biomedical applications, such as photodynamic therapy for cancer patients.
“We lay the foundations for many different applicationsMilsmann said. “Understanding how this compound works, what we’ve been doing on the job, will help people who want to carry these technologies into the future.“
More information: eberly.wvu.edu