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Harnessing the sun via solar cells

Reducing the cost of converting solar energy into electricity and increasing photoconversion efficiency are global endeavours that have attracted the attention of a cooperative research group of two Andalusian universities. Their research efforts concentrated on developing a new generation of photoelectrochemical cells that do not require silicon as building material.
Harnessing the sun via solar cells
The ongoing effort to provide abundant and accessible energy faces great challenges due to the increasing world population, demands for higher standards of living as well as a much-discussed end to fossil fuels. Solar energy has been recognised as an environmentally safe and practically inexhaustible alternative o fossil fuels.

Conventional silicon based solar cells are used worldwide to produce millions of watts of electricity each year. Unfortunately, there are distinct issues associated with the use of this type of cells. Producing the high quality silicon that solar cells require is costly. Additionally, energy conversion efficiency for these types of cells is quite low. Therefore, the traditional solar cell is neither a practical nor an economically viable replacement for fossil fuel energy sources.

Recently however, new molecular photovoltaic materials have been developed. Solar cells based on the photoexitation of dyes are the most promising alternative to the conventional silicon based solar devices. These dye-sensitized solar cells depend on a mesoporous layer of nanoparticulate titanium dioxide (TiO2) coated with organic dyes that increase the spectral absorption of sunlight into the visible region.

The primary advantage of these types of dye-sensitised cells is that the major components, namely titanium dioxide, are cost-effective and they do not need an elaborate apparatus to manufacture. In addition, the energy conversion efficiency remains invariant to temperature changes and different angles. Thus, such solar cells are characterised by an increased performance.

The research group is seeking technical co-operation with either a company or an institute engaged in solar energy deployment, The aim is to further develop this new technology for photoelectrochemical cells and collaborate to bring the end product to market.
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