More Efficient Dyed Cells Offer Hope for Cheap Solar Windows

Date: 9 November 2011
A new set of compounds for dye-sensitized solar cells have lowered costs and improved efficiencyPlants have been using a green pigment for billions of years to capture sunlight, turning it into a flow of electrons and storing its energy in the chemical bonds of big organic molecules (also known as food).

Given that successful history, chemist Michael Graetzel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and his colleagues turned to a compound similar in shape and color to chlorophyll when they set out to build a better solar cell.

Graetzel's work could be the precursor to tinted windows that also produce electricity—an advance that could lead to entire buildings generating power, rather than just the rooftops. In a paper in the November 4 issue of Science, Graetzel and his colleagues outline how they took two big steps to making such dye-sensitized solar cells more common in the marketplace: They improved efficiency and lowered the cost of the cells.

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