Carbon-Based Solar Cell that is Cost Effective, Coming Soon
Collecting photons of light from the sun is the first step in converting solar energy to electricity. Currently, most solar cells use silicon and ruthenium-containing compounds. While these materials are effective, silicon is relatively expensive and ruthenium is as rare a metal as platinum. Eventually, the ruthenium supply will run out. These disadvantages can be addressed by using one of the most plentiful materials in the universe – carbon.
Chemists at Indiana University in Bloomington believe they have discovered a way to use carbon in the form of graphene to absorb a wide range of light frequencies. Graphene is also inexpensive and less toxic than traditional solar cell materials.
One challenge that had to be overcome, though, was the size of the graphene sheet needed to absorb enough light to generate electricity. Large sheets are difficult to work with and tend to stick to each other, inhibiting electrical conductivity. Chemist Liang-shi Li and colleagues’ experiments showed they could achieve an acceptable open-circuit voltage using graphene as a light acceptor and titanium dioxide as an electron acceptor.
Other solar cell technologies:
Ultra-Lightweight, Affordable Solar Panel Technology uses 1/100 of Silicon in Conventional Solar Cells
One-Step Process for Photovoltaic Cell Production Could Make Solar Competitive
IBM makes solar cells out of common materials
New Glitter Sized Photovoltaic Cells Use Less Silicon, Generate More Electricity