Chemists Work to Improve Solar Cell Technology

In this article, we will explore what the biggest technological challenge in the photovoltaic (PV) industry is and how photosynthesis can be the answer to this challenge.

First of all, you most likely remember this from your biology class, but may we remind you about photosynthesis: It is a mechanism performed by plants to adapt the energy supplied by the sun, which is later released and used by the plants as fuel.

Why is this so important in the modern day PV industry? One of the main obstacles in this technology is to reach an effective way to store the abundant sun energy and to be able to use it later during less sunny or winter days. And the way plants and other organisms are functioning can be crucial in finding the solution!

The production of solar cells is a complex process that involves pricey tools that deliver data from thin film stress to wafer bow measurements, and it also involves a very expensive material, silicon, that plays the role of capturing and storing the energy. The key to effective energy storage is to closely imitate the natural structure of plants and other organisms.

Currently, the system is organized as a “spaghetti dish” with long noodle-like polymers and unsystematic fullerence “meatballs”.

Chemists from UCLA came up with a more neat, nature inspired arrangement that can make it simpler to extract current from a solar cell. Another advantage of this new arrangement is that it is environmentally friendly and the parts can be reassembled in water without any use of harmful chemicals.