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Zinc dyes enables creation of renewable PV devices

Posted: 08 May 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Dye-sensitized solar cells? photovoltaic devices?

Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland have developed a new strategy for making and attaching colored materials to the surface of titanium dioxide nanoparticles. Their study has also shown for the first time that simple compounds of the readily available metal zinc can be used.

Through the study, the researchers claim that they've uncovered a new approach for creating sustainable and renewable photovoltaic devices.

Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) consist of a semiconductor, titanium dioxide, which is coated with a colored dye. The dye absorbs sunlight and injects an electron into the semiconductor. This is the primary event leading to the photocurrent.

Project officer Biljana Bozic for University of Basel's research group said that the key discovery was finding a method for the simultaneous synthesis of the dye and its attachment to the semiconductor surface.

"The discovery that zinc dyes can be used is most unexpected," explained Prof. Constable�because most chemists consider zinc to be a 'boring' element, as most of its compounds are colorless. However, in course of other work related to next-generation lighting devices, the research team including�Nik Hostettler and Ewald Schoenhofer were led by Professors Ed Constable and Catherine Housecroft of the University of Basel, discovered new highly-colored organic compounds that could bind to zinc to give new colored materials. Although the devices are not yet particularly efficient, the observation opens the way to new generations of DSCs with hitherto unconsidered types of dyes.

Conventional DSCs use ruthenium dyes, but ruthenium is very rare and expensive (3,500 Swiss Francs/?2,990/$3,950.85

per kg). Recently, the research team demonstrated that dyes from abundant and relatively inexpensive copper (7.5 Swiss Francs/?6.3/$8.32 per kg) were effective in DSCs and the extension to cheap zinc (1.8 Swiss Francs/?1.5/$1.98

per kg) compounds further increases the sustainability of the materials science.

"This is a significant step toward our dream of coupling photovoltaics and lighting in an intelligent curtain which can store solar energy during the day and function as a lighting device at night. This is at the core of our ERC research program Light-In, Light-Out," commented Constable.

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