Improved performance for solar cells: Highly efficient p-type dye-sensitized solar cell with cobalt-based electrolyte

Dec 04, 2012

(Phys.org)—Photovoltaics continues to be an expensive technology. Dye-based solar cells may represent a more cost-effective alternative to traditional solar cells. In these cells, a dye is used in place of a semiconductor to trap the light. Tandem cells consisting of both a conventional n-type and an "inverse" p-type dye-sensitized solar cell seem to be especially promising. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, a team of Australian and German scientists has now reported a significant increase in the degree of efficiency of p-type dye-sensitized solar cells through use of an electrolyte based on a cobalt complex.

Conventional n-type dye-sensitized solar cells use a photoanode, a positive electrode coated with an n-type semiconductor, such as , and a dye. When light strikes the electrode, the become excited and release electrons—negative charges, hence the n in n-type—and "inject" them into the n-type semiconductor. The redox mediator, a component of the electrolyte that can move freely between the electrodes, regenerates the dye by resupplying it with electrons from the counter electrode. In a p-type cell, the process is reversed: a special dye and a p-type semiconductor are located on a photocathode. The light-activated dye "sucks" electrons out of the valence band of a p-type semiconductor such as . This effectively transfers "electron holes"—positive charges, hence the p in p-type—from the dye. The redox mediator takes the electrons from the dye and hands them over to the counter electrode.

A very promising approach for increasing the performance of is to combine both an n-type and a p-type dye-sensitized solar cell to make a tandem cell. However, despite some progress, the performance of the p-type cells still significantly lags behind that of their n-type counterparts. An international team of researchers from Monash University and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (Australia), as well as the University of Ulm (Germany), have now achieved a considerable improvement in the efficiency of p-type cells by choosing a different redox mediator.

Researchers working with Udo Bach and Leone Spiccia replaced the previous, commonly used iodide and triiodide system with a well-known cobalt complex, tris(ethylenediamine)cobalt(II)/(III), in which the cobalt can switch between the +2 and +3 oxidation states. The advantage of this system is that the redox potential is significantly lower. As a result, the open-circuit voltage, a critical parameter for , is doubled and there is still a high enough driving force to ensure rapid and efficient regeneration of the spent dye. These devices achieve an energy-conversion efficiency of 1.3 %, while previous systems attained a maximum of only 0.41 %. The p-type dye-sensitized solar cell with the cobalt-based redox mediator even gave promising performance data under diffuse sunlight experienced on cloudy days.

Explore further: Recycling industrial waste water: Scientists discover a new method of producing hydrogen

More information: Bach, U. Highly Efficient p-Type Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells based on Tris(1,2-diaminoethane)Cobalt(II)/(III) Electrolytes, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201206219.

Related Stories

Dye-sensitized solar cells break a new record

Nov 14, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Dye-sensitized Grätzel solar cells have just set a new efficiency benchmark. By changing the composition and color of the cells, an EPFL team has increased their efficiency to more than ...

Substantial improvement in essential cheap solar cell process

Mar 20, 2008

A cheap alternative to silicon solar cells can be found in dye-sensitised solar cells. This type of cell imitates the natural conversion of sunlight into energy by, for instance, plants and light-sensitive bacteria. Annemarie ...

Recommended for you

A greener source of polyester—cork trees

Apr 16, 2014

On the scale of earth-friendly materials, you'd be hard pressed to find two that are farther apart than polyester (not at all) and cork (very). In an unexpected twist, however, scientists are figuring out ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sonhouse
5 / 5 (1) Dec 04, 2012
If they really really work at it they may get all the way to two percent!

More news stories

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...