A new dye sensitizer, NCSU-10, can be used to create more effective solar cells.
North Carolina State University invention has significant potential to
improve the efficiency of solar cells and other technologies that derive
energy from light.
Ahmed El-Shafei’s research group invented a new “sensitizer,” or dye,
that harvests more ambient and solar light than any dyes currently on
the market for use in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs).
third-party solar energy company compared our new dye, NCSU-10, against
the state-of-the-art dye on the market. Our dye had 14% more power
density,” says El-Shafei, an assistant professor in the Textile
Engineering, Chemistry and Science department. “In other words, NCSU-10
allows us to harvest more energy from the same amount of light.”
new dye should significantly boost the efficiency of DSSCs, which have a
host of applications. Indoors, these DSSCs can be used in technology to
power cellular phones, laptop computers and MP3 players using ambient
light. Outdoors, they could be used in conventional solar arrays or in
improved energy-driven applications for building-integrated photovoltaic
products including, but not limited to, windows, facades and skylights.
to the state-of-the-art dye on the market, NCSU-10 can absorb more
photons at lower dye concentrations, and can therefore be used to create
more effective solar cells on windows and facades while still allowing
the windows to be highly transparent.
are made of inexpensive and environmentally benign materials including a
dye, an electrolyte and titanium dioxide (TiO2)—the white component
used in toothpaste. DSSCs work by absorbing photons, or discrete packets
of light energy, from incident light (or direct light that falls on a
surface) to create free electrons in nanoporous semiconductors such as
TiO2, in the cell. These electrons travel to the outside circuit to
generate an electric current. Owing to their independence on the angle
of incident light and high response to low level of lighting conditions,
DSSCs outperform conventional silicon photovoltaic by 20 to 40% under
diffuse light, on cloudy and/or rainy days, and in indoor ambient light,
which make DSSCs a unique class of photovoltaics.
patent is pending on the new dye, and the university is in
communication with potential industry partners about licensing use of
NCSU-10, as well as funding additional research in this area.