Dye-sensitized solar cells are the best type of solar cells invented so far, but they have a unfavorable aspect: the price. Although they are very thin, pliable, not difficult to make and they have a great conversion rate (8%), they are made from platinum, one of the most expensive elements on Earth. The new inexpensive material that was discovered at Michigan Technological University may replace the platinum used to create these dye-sensitized solar cells in the near future.
The man in charge is called Yun Hang Hu and he has created a material called 3D graphene with the same catalytic activity and conductivity as platinum. Ever since Graphene was discovered, it is used in so many applications due to its properties and its dimension (one-single molecule thick). Professor Hu used this material to create a new version of it called 3D graphene, a material that has a honeycomb structure. In order create it, the team induced a chemical reaction by combining lithium oxide and carbon monoxide. The result was the LiCO3 (lithium carbonate) and the 3D graphene with a honeycomb structure. Later, the Li2CO3 particles were removed from the 3D graphene using an acid.
The scientist concluded that the new discovered material had a superior conductivity, so it can be used as a replacement for the platinum counter electrode used in dye-sensitived solar cells. When the scientist compared the two solar cells (the one with platinum and the one with 3D graphene) they found out that both have converted the same percent of solar power into energy – around 8%. If further experiments have the same results, we could experience cheaper solar panels in the future, since the honeycomb graphene is neither expensive nor difficult to produce.
image sources: www.mtu.edu, www.inhabitat.com