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Taiwan researchers score breakthrough in solar cell technology

2011/11/16 22:54

Taipei, Nov. 16 (CNA) A research team composed of Taiwanese and Swiss chemists has developed new dye components that can highly enhance the solar conversion efficiency of dye-sensitized photovoltaic (PV) cells, the National Science Council (NSC) said Wednesday.

The success marks a significant step toward the creation of very cheap solar cells, which would greatly contribute to the development of the photovoltaic industry, according to council.

The NSC-funded research team used porphyrin and cobalt to replace ruthenium and iodine as dye components, which increased the absorption of sunlight and resulted in a more efficient electron exchange and a solar conversion efficiency ratio of 13.1 percent, the council said.

The previous cell design achieved a conversion efficiency of 10 to 11 percent, it said.

The achievement has attracted attention in the global academic community and an article detailing the research results has appeared in the latest issue of the prestigious "Science" magazine.

Other U.S. journals such as Chemical & Engineering News and Scientific American have also published articles on the major breakthrough in dye-sensitized solar cell technology, hailing it as yet another milestone in the global development of renewable energy.

The research team , led by Yeh Chen-yu of National Chung Hsing University, Eric Diau of National Chiao Tung University, and Michael Gratzel, a professor at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, said the new invention can be easily commercialized at low cost.

Yeh said at a news conference that the porphyrin-sensitized solar cells with cobalt-based redox electrolyte can be widely used in consumer electronics gadgets.

Porphyrin is an artificial chlorophyll that plays the same role in dye-sensitized solar cells as chlorophyll in plant photosynthesis, Yeh said. The newly developed solar cells take the imitation even closer as the new chemical combination gives them a greenish tint, he added.

"This new color increases the efficiency of the process that converts light energy into electricity," Yeh explained.

Noting that solar cells with the new combination of chemicals can be used to create flexible, transparent solar panels, Yeh said they are a promising alternative for certain applications in which traditional rigid, silicon-based panels cannot be used.

In addition, he added, this new efficiency benchmark brings them well within the efficiency range of more expensive silicon solar cells.

(By Lin Hui-chun and Sofia Wu)enditem /pc