Marine plant replacement for platinum in solar cells

05-Dec-2013 - China

An international research team has shown that that the power conversion efficiency of sea tangle extract is comparable to platinum in solar cell electrodes.

Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) are quickly becoming a widespread and affordable alternative to photovoltaic solar cells. The electrode material in DSCs is traditionally platinum, which shows impressive performance, but isn’t environmentally friendly and incurs high production costs.

The team of scientists from China, Japan and Switzerland investigated sea tangle, a common marine plant, as a suitable source of raw materials for DSCs. Their results showed that the naturally-sourced materials demonstrated improved power conversion efficiency over previously tested natural dyes, to the point where they are comparable to those of synthetic, more expensive materials.

The researchers simultaneously extracted natural dye, iodine and carbon materials from sea tangle to act as the sensitiser, electron shuttle and counter electrode catalyst respectively, in a hybrid sea tangle device. They tested the device against a platinum counter electrode and found that it showed similar electrocatalytic activity. At this point, the power conversion efficiency of the device is not any better than platinum electrodes, but scope to advance its performance paves the way to a more eco-friendly type of DSC.


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