Tuesday I had the chance to visit the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at EPFL. At the invitation of Carole and Michael Grätzel, I toured the lab and learned all about Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells (DSC).
It is absolutely amazing what they are doing; I watched in awe as they showed elementary school children how to power a fan by shining a lamp onto layers of raspberry puree and pencil shavings. This simple process is at the heart of DSC and its implications are tremendous:
1.It doesn’t use silicon so is impervious to price fluctuations and raw material shortages due to the semiconductor industry.
2. The photovoltaic medium is essentially an “ink” that can be “printed” on many different materials. This means that no longer are solar cells relegated to big, ugly, heavy panels. Instead they can be integrated into the windows of your house (transparently), the body of your car, or the fabric of your clothing.
3. The fabrication process is cheap and can leverage the skill/scale of major printers.
4. The cells perform well in diffuse light so you don’t need huge arrays in areas with massive illumination; they work in the rest of the world.