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Friday, March 14, 2008

A new type of cheap Solar Cells

Cheap and easy-to-make dye-sensitized solar cells are still in the early stages of commercial production. Meanwhile, their inventor, Michael Gratzel, is working on more advanced versions of them. In a paper published in the online edition of Angewandte Chemie, Gratzel, a chemistry professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, presents a version of dye-sensitized cells that could be more robust and even cheaper to make than current versions.

Dye-sensitized solar cells consist of titanium oxide nanocrystals that are coated with light-absorbing dye molecules and immersed in an electrolyte solution, which is sandwiched between two glass plates or embedded in plastic. Light striking the dye frees electrons and creates "holes"--the areas of positive charge that result when electrons are lost. The semiconducting titanium dioxide particles collect the electrons and transfer them to an external circuit, producing an electric current.

These solar cells are cheaper to make than conventional silicon photovoltaic panels. In principle, they could be used to make power-generating windows and building facades, and they could even be incorporated into clothing.

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