North Carolina State University researchers have shown that water-gel-based solar devices – “artificial leaves” – can act like solar cells to produce electricity. These bendable devices have the potential to be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than silicon-based solar cell. It seems like once every six months there is an announcement about new energy gathering foliage.
This NCS approach is a bit different, since this device makes use of a hydrogel. Since hydrogen is environmentally benign there should be less environmental impact from its production.
“The light-sensitive molecules get "excited" by the sun's rays to produce electricity, similar to plant molecules that get excited to synthesize sugars in order to grow”, says NC State's Dr. Orlin Velev, Invista Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the lead author of a paper published online in the Journal of Materials Chemistry describing this new generation of solar cells.
The researchers created a photovoltaic device with two photosensitive dyes embedded in the hydrogel. Replacing the expensive platinum typically used for the electrode in photovoltaic devices with a less expensive copper coated with a carbon material (carbon nanotubes, carbon black or graphite).
"The devices are still of relatively low efficiency and there is a long way to go before this can become a practical technology, However, we believe that the concept of biologically inspired 'soft' devices for generating electricity may in the future provide an alternative for the present-day solid-state technologies."
I just wonder all the possibilities this could bring - what are your thoughts?