Learning from nature the increasing efficiency of organic solar cells electricity generation

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Researchers from universities around the world are attempting to improve the efficiency of solar cells using organic materials. Scientists in China and the UK have developed carbon and plastic-manufactured polymer cells, while Canadian researchers have looked into using bacteria to convert light to energy, taking techniques from natural photosynthesis. gas jobs pittsburgh How have alternatives to traditional solar cells been developed, and can they be more efficient?

The pre-requisite of any solar cell is that it is made from semiconducting materials. electricity grid uk These materials must be able to absorb sunlight. Some cells are optimised for absorbing sunlight that reaches the Earth, while others are optimised for use in space. Designs include single-junction solar cells made from a single layer of light-absorbing material, and multi-junction cells made from multiple layers.

The ‘organic’ nature of the cells relates to the use of carbon materials instead of silicon at their core. Organic PVs are made from compounds that are dissolved in ink and are printed on thin rolls of plastic. 9gag tv These cells are much more pliable than solid silicon panels, meaning they can be bent around structures or incorporated into softer materials such as clothing.

However, conversion rates for organic cells have been generally much lower – at around half the efficiency of their silicon counterparts. That was the case until Henry Yan at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, in collaboration with North Carolina State University physicist Harald Ade, developed a PV made from organometallic materials that achieved 14.2% efficiency (the National Renewable Energy Laboratory certified this cell at 11.5% efficient). static electricity bill nye Yan did not submit his 14.2% efficient cell, stating it was not stable enough.

According to estimates, organic cells with a 20-year lifespan could produce electricity at a cost of less than 7 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). electricity japan The average electricity cost in the US for 2017 was 10.5 cents per kWh, according to the US Energy Information Administration. That small reduction in cost could accumulate to a considerable saving for energy providers and consumers, not to mention the cash saving advantages of going organic.

“The beauty of this breakthrough is that these new solar panels can be designed to fit virtually any application. electricity distribution map This could be anything from the delicate contours of an electric vehicle or the wings of an aircraft, to the exterior surface of a building or even the shoulders of the jacket you’re wearing – making energy generation possible anywhere,” says Stone.

UBC scientists led by Vikramaditya Yadav, professor at the department of chemical and biological engineering, discovered the cheap and sustainable method using bacteria. The team genetically engineered E.coli to produce considerable amounts of lycopene, a dye found in tomatoes that gives them their reddish colour and makes them particularly effective at harvesting light.

The team coated E.coli bacteria with a semiconducting mineral and applied it to a glass surface, which acted as an anode at one end of their cell. bp gas prices akron ohio Using this, they managed to generate a current of 0.686 milliamps per square centimetre (mA/cm2). This is an 89.5% increase on the previous record of 0.362mA/cm2 achieved by comparable designs in the field, according to Yadav.