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Were you aware that a North Carolina State University staff has shown that water gel-based solar devices (named: “artificial leaves”) can behave like solar cells to produce electricity?
The study has been posted on-line inside the Journal of Materials Chemistry by Doctor. Orlin Velev, an Invista Professor associated with Chemical and Bio-molecular Engineering.
The conclusions prove the concept for making solar cells that more closely copy nature. They also have the possibility to be less costly and more environmentally friendly than the existing standard silicon based solar cells.
The bendable products are composed of water-based gel infused together with light-sensitive molecules (like plant chlorophyll) coupled with electrodes coated by carbon materials, such as carbon nanotubes or graphite.
Graphene is the standard structural element of a number of carbon allotropes such as graphite, carbon nanotubes and fullerenes. Graphene is a 1-atom thick planar sheet of carbon atoms that are densely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice. The title comes from graphite ene; graphite itself consists of a lot of graphene sheets stacked together.
The light-sensitive molecules get “excited” by the sun’s rays to produce electricity, similar to plant molecules that get excited to synthesize all kinds of sugar in order to grow.
Dr. Velev affirms that the analysis team hopes to “learn how to copy the materials by which nature harnesses solar energy.” Although manufactured light-sensitive molecules can be used, Velev says naturally derived products, like chlorophyll, are also easily integrated in these units because of their particular water-gel matrix.
Velev even imagines a future where homes could be covered with soft sheets of similar electrical energy-generating man-made-leaf photo voltaic cells. The concept of biochemically inspired ‘soft’ units for generating electricity may possibly in the future offer an alternative for the present-day solid-state technologies.
Reference: Aqueous soft matter based solar devices. Journal of Materials Chemistry, 2011; DOI: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2011/JM/c0jm01820a
Colleen Mcguire – WorldNewsVine North Carolina