The efficiency of low-cost solar cells that could one day form exterior walls or windows of buildings has been increased by 30 percent, according to ABC Science.
Associate Professor Kalantar-zadeh, of RMIT University, and colleagues, report their research in the journal ACS Nano.
"This kind of solar cell is considered the third generation of solar cells," said Kalantar-zadeh, whose team led an international consortium of universities and the CSIRO.
Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) use a dye-coated semiconductor, instead of silicon, to absorb sunlight. Energy is then transferred via an electrolyte to an appliance or battery.
Scientists hope that DSSCs will one day replace the more expensive silicon solar cells. Apart from being cheaper, they can use diffuse light to operate.
This makes them excellent candidates for being incorporated into building walls, windows and skylights.
DSSCs are currently are used in small portable devices like backpacks that can be used to charge mobile phones.
Before they can be used more widely, their efficiency at converting sunlight to electricity must be improved. The current record for DSSC efficiency in applications is around eight per cent, whereas silicon cells operate at about 15 percent.
The semiconductor used in DSSCs is usually made from titania, but Kalantar-zadeh used a metal called niobia instead.
This generates a higher voltage when it receives energy from its dye coating, thus increasing the overall efficiency of the solar cell by 30 per cent, compared to DSSCs titania-based semiconductors.
"Our work suggests that niobia can be used as the star material in DSSCs and provides a viable solution to boost the conversion efficiency to the values that far exceed that of silicon-based solar cells," said the researchers.
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