One way to improve solar cells is to find
inexpensive materials to replace the silicon currently used to gather
light energy and convert it to electricity.
One line of research taps dye molecules to gather photons. Researchers
from the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan and the University of
Texas at Arlington have shown that including titania in the mix makes
the dye more efficient.
The composite could be used in solar cells that are relatively
inexpensive to manufacture. The material could also be used in water purification
and chemical and biological sensing applications, according to the researchers.
To make the material the researchers deposited 7.8-micron-thick
oxide films containing titania nanoparticles onto a tin oxide-fluorine
substrate. A micron is one thousandth of a millimeter. The material contains
nano pores, or tiny holes, that are several orders of magnitude smaller
than its thickness.
The titania particles made the material more efficient at separating
negatively-charged electrons from positively-charged holes. Solar cells
use photon energy to excite and move electrons into a circuit to generate
It is likely take one or two decades to make the material efficient
enough for practical solar cells, according to the researchers. Their
prototype has an efficiency of four percent. An existing sol-gel method
of producing titania films currently yields more efficient solar cells,
but is less amenable to mass production, according to the researchers.
The work appeared in the November 4, 2003 issue of Advanced
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