Metal-Oxide Coating Method for Safer More Efficient Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells

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The harvesting of solar power is an important initiative in the effort to fulfill the energy requirements of modern society. Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) achieve a light-to-electrical conversion efficiency of up to 11% and are less expensive than conventional silicon-based cells. These cells employ a layer of molecular dye that absorbs sunlight (in a manner similar to chlorophyll in plant leaves). The main limitation of these cells is the tendency of the dye layer to eventually detach from the photo electrode reducing the performance of the cell over time. The organic solvents used in DSSCs presents a second problem for practical application: these compounds are harmful to human health and must be well sequestered for usage and disposal. Northwestern investigators have developed a method to stabilize the dyes using a metal-oxide coating. Under this coating the dyes remain in place even in highly basic solution. Furthermore this coating renders the electrodes hydrophilic allowing for the usage of aqueous solutions as opposed to the toxic organic solvents. Experimental results have indicated that the aqueous solutions result in better performance than organic solvents in these coated cells. This development could result in a cheaper safer longer-lasting solar panel for energy harvest.

Benefits

1) Longer-lasting more efficient dye-sensitized solar cells (cheaper than silicon) 2) Improved safety for use and disposal

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