July 14, 2008

Salts boost dye solar cells

Dye-sensitized solar cells are inexpensive alternatives to silicon solar cells, but the most efficient versions, which capture as much as 11.1 percent of sunlight, use volatile organic solvents that require expensive encapsulation. A prototype that substitutes a mixture of three salts as its electrolyte instead of solvents converts 8.2 percent of sunlight to electricity.

The salt electrolyte also promises to make plastic solar cells more durable because it doesn't evaporate through the plastic like solvent electrolytes.

Dye-sensitized solar cells promise to be several times less expensive than today's more efficient silicon solar cells, and they can be manufactured as flexible sheets. Solvent-free versions could make large-scale installations practical.

The technology is being commercialized by G24 Innovations, Ltd.

Research paper:
High-performance Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells Based on Solvent-Free Electrolytes Produced from Eutectic Melts
Nature Materials, published online June 29, 2008

Researchers' homepage:
Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces, EPFL

Related stories and briefs:
Better dye solar cell
Dye boosts nanotube solar cell
Clumps make better solar cells

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