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The best of both worlds for solar energy conversion

Solar cell technology is facing a bottleneck to widespread uptake related to price, stability and energy conversion efficiency. Scientists are combining benefits of two third-generation technologies to overcome hurdles.
The best of both worlds for solar energy conversion
Organic photovoltaics (OPVs) and dye-sensitised solar cells (DSSCs) are promising thin-film technologies as opposed to original crystalline silicon-based technologies. OPVs use organic semiconductors as light conversion whereas DSSCs work much like photosynthesis. OPVs advantages are the significantly decreased associated costs. However, it’s long-term stability and power conversion efficiencies are not comparable to conventional silicon and copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). DSSCs exhibit greater efficiencies but still face problems related to instability of electrolyte materials.

Scientists initiated the EU-funded project 'All-carbon platforms for highly efficient molecular wire-coupled dye-sensitized solar cells' (MOLESOL) to develop a novel hybrid device with enhanced conversion efficiency.

During the first reporting period, scientists developed an optimised DSSC with a graphene cathode. In particular, graphene nanoplatelets (GNPs) in the form of transparent thin films on fluorine-doped tin oxide (FTO) replaced conventional platinum (Pt). Scientists also investigated alternatives to Pt–FTO in terms of electrocatalytic activity and found cobalt (Co)-based compounds to be promising. In Co-mediated DSSCs, GNPs exhibited very high catalytic activity. These DSSCs also achieved high energy conversion efficiencies for both GNP and Pt-based cathodes although the GNP cathodes were generally superior.

MOLESOL expects to combine the best attributes of the leading third-generation solar cell technologies –OPV and DSSC. These thin-film systems will facilitate roll–to–roll manufacture, to deliver a significant increase in energy conversion efficiency together with reduced costs and enhanced stability. Broad market uptake of solar technologies will positively impact the environment and increase the competitiveness of the small and medium-sized enterprises working in the field.

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