Organic solar panels. Image: Scientific photo Shutterstock

Dye solar cells are capable of artificial photosynthesis. To cut costs, scientists are turning to the power of Big Data.

The solar industry is studying the different alternatives to increase the efficiency of organic solar panels. A group of international scientists have used supercomputers for better results.

The challenge calls for an innovative approach, such as that proposed by scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory in the United States, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Cambridge, in the United Kingdom.

The team combined the power of high-performance computing and experimental methods to investigate a database of more than 10,000 materials, candidates for the new promise of organic solar panels.

“This study is particularly interesting because we were able to demonstrate the entire process of data-driven materials research – from using advanced computational methods to compound identification and actual testing.

Jacqueline Cole.

What are DSSC Organic Solar Cells?

When we talk about organic solar panels, we refer to the Dy sensitized solar cell (DSSC, DSC, DYSC or Grätzel cell).

Today, DSSC solar cells or Grätzel cells use natural dyes as an active ingredient, in particular anthocin (molecules extracted from blackberry and raspberry juice), deposited on a conductive surface made of TiO2. The efficiency of these devices, once the manufacturing process is industrialized, barely exceeds 10%. However, there are a large number of potential molecules that can improve your performance.

To select the best, the scientists created an automated workflow that uses a combination of simulation, data mining and machine learning techniques to enable the simultaneous analysis of thousands of chemical compounds. In this way, the researchers were able to reduce the sample of 10,000 potential materials to just 5 – the best in terms of light absorption, polarity, and additional characteristics.

The final phase of the study consisted of the experimental validation of the five most promising dyes through a global collaboration, each molecule having been initially synthesized in different laboratories around the world for other purposes.

It was really a great team effort to get so many people to contribute to this research. When incorporated into a photovoltaic device, organic dyes achieved conversion yields roughly equal to industry standard organometallic molecules.

Jacqueline Cole.

More information: