Researchers at Massey University’s Nanomaterials Research Centre in New Zealand have come up with dye-sensitised solar cells that generate electricity from sunlight at 1/10th the cost of current silicon based photovoltaic cells.
The synthetic dyes are made from simple organic compounds similar to those found in nature. One synthetic dye is based on chlorophyll, while another red dye is based on hemoglobin.
Dr. Wayne Campbell and his staff have been able to run a small fan in low light conditions using 10×10 centimeter green cells, which is something that silicon based photovoltaic solar cells cannot do. This makes these dye based solar cells ideal for cloudy conditions and also allows the dye based cells to be used in tinted windows.
The dyes could also be used in clothing – a jacket could be used to recharge cellphones and other portable devices.
‘The Centreâ€™s new director, Professor Ashton Partridge, says they now have the most efficient porphyrin dye in the world and aim to optimise and improve the cell construction and performance before developing the cells commercially. â€œThe next step is to take these dyes and incorporate them into roofing materials or wall panels. We have had many expressions of interest from New Zealand companies,â€ Professor Partridge says.’