Fixing Electron and Liquid Leaks in Dye-Sensitized Solar CellsCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: August 30, 2012 08:29AM
Like many other technologies, there are many kinds of solar cells. The traditional silicon cells are what most people picture when thinking about photovoltaics, but it may be the plastic and dye-sensitized cells we ultimately use to power our homes in the future. For the moment silicon solar cells are more efficient than their polymer cousins, but those cousins can be much cheaper to mass produce, are more durable, and can even be flexible. Now researchers at Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania are working to improve dye-sensitized cells.
Dye-sensitized solar cells use dyes as the photovoltaic material, instead of silicon or larger polymers, and an electrolyte to move the electrons to the electrodes. Typically this electrolyte is a liquid, but that poses some problems as the liquid can leak out of the cell, and impair its performance. This is why the researchers are looking to a solid polymer electrolyte, which cannot leak, but is still flexible. The researchers have also added carbon nanotubes to the mix, to direct the flow of electrons within the cell. When photons hit the dye and cause the electrons to jump and start moving, the electrons will go in whatever direction they feel like. If this is not in the direction of an electrode, the energy of the electron can be lost.
To accelerate their research, the researchers are not building prototypes at this time. Instead they are relying on computer models, which will allow them to quickly test different alignments of the nanotubes.