The standard solar cell uses silicon oxide, which is expensive and environmentally toxic. One of the promising alternatives is the so-called “Grätzel cell”, a cheaper, cleaner alternative based on more abundant titanium oxide. However, they don’t last long because this type of dye-sensitized cell uses an electrolyte made from an organic liquid that can leak and potentially corrode the cell.
Researchers at the Northwestern University in Colorado believe they may have solved the problem with the development of a new material that solidifies after being applied to the nanoparticles, therefore it won’t corrode the cell. They say their solid-state cell is more robust and could finally present a viable alternative to standard commercial silicon cells, even though efficiency rate is lower at around 10 percent (while silicon ones may reach 20 per cent).
Researcher Robert P.H. Chang said the cell uses “nanotechnology to the hilt. We have millions and millions of nanoparticles, which gives us a huge effective surface area, and we coat all the particles with light-absorbing dye.”
The next step is to develop an array to carry out further tests.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.