Biological material boosts solar cell performance

Biological material boosts solar cell performance

Next-generation solar cells that mimic photosynthesis with biological material may give new meaning to the term “green technology.” Adding the protein bacteriorhodopsin (bR) to perovskite solar cells boosted the efficiency of the devices in a series of laboratory tests, according to an international team of researchers.

“These findings open the door for the development of a cheaper, more environmentally friendly bioperovskite solar cell technology,” said Shashank Priya, associate vice president for research and professor of materials science at Penn State. “In the future, we may essentially replace some expensive chemicals inside solar cells with relatively cheaper natural materials.”

Perovskite solar cells, named for their unique crystal structures that excel at absorbing visible light, are an area of intense research because they offer a more efficient and less expensive alternative to traditional silicon-based solar technology.

The most efficient perovskite solar cells can convert 22 to 23 percent of sunlight to electricity. The researchers found that adding the bR protein to perovskite solar cells improved the devices’ efficiency from 14.5 to 17 percent. They reported their findings in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

The research represents the first time scientists have shown that biological materials added to perovskite solar cells can provide a high efficiency. Future research could result in even more efficient bioperovskite materials, the researchers said.

“Previous studies have achieved 8 or 9 percent efficiency by mixing certain proteins inside solar cell structures,” said Priya, a co-lead author of the study. “But nothing has come close to 17 percent. These findings are very significant.”

Commercial solar arrays consist of hundreds or thousands of individual solar cells, so even small improvements in efficiency can lead to real savings, according to the researchers.

Mimicking nature
Drawing on nature, the researchers sought to further improve the performance of perovskite solar cells through Forster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET), a mechanism for energy transfer between a pair of photosensitive molecules.

“The FRET mechanism has been around for a long time,” said Renugopalakrishnan Venkatesan, professor at Northeastern University and Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard University, and co-lead author on the study. “It seems to be the basis of photosynthesis and can be found in technologies like the wireless transfer of energy, and even in the animal world as a mechanism for communication. We are using this mechanism to try to create a world of bio-inspired systems that have the potential to surpass either inorganic or organic molecules.”

The bR proteins and perovskite materials have similar electrical properties, or band gaps. By aligning these gaps, the scientists hypothesized they could achieve a better performance in perovskite solar cells through the FRET mechanism.

“Solar cells work by absorbing light energy, or photon molecules and creating electron-hole pairs,” said Subhabrata Das, who participated in the research while a doctoral student at Columbia University. “By sending the electrons and holes in opposite directions, solar cells generate an electrical current that’s turned into electricity.”

However, a certain percent of electron-hole pairs recombine, reducing the amount of current produced. Mixing the bR protein into perovskite solar cells helped electron-hole pairs better move through the devices, reducing recombination losses and boosting efficiency, the scientists said.

The findings could potentially have larger consequences, leading to the design of other hybrid devices in which artificial and biological materials work together, according to the researchers.

Research paper

Related Links
Penn State
All About Solar Energy at SolarDaily.com

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook – our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don’t have a paywall – with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once
credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly
paypal only

SOLAR DAILY
Croissant making inspires renewable energy solution
London, UK (SPX) Oct 19, 2019
The art of croissant making has inspired researchers from Queen Mary University of London to find a solution to a sustainable energy problem. Croissants are made by pressing and folding dough to create a layered pastry. The researchers applied this technique to a dielectric capacitor, which is a device that stores energy like a battery. By pressing and folding a polymer film capacitor – a capacitor with an insulating plastic film – they were able to store 30 times more energy than the best-p … read more

Comments (1)

  1. My husband and i ended up being really more than happy when Emmanuel could finish up his research via the precious recommendations he had using your blog. It’s not at all simplistic to just happen to be handing out tactics which other folks have been making money from. We really remember we’ve got the website owner to appreciate for this. The entire explanations you made, the straightforward site navigation, the relationships your site give support to foster – it’s got most extraordinary, and it’s really facilitating our son and us know that the issue is enjoyable, and that is exceptionally essential. Many thanks for all the pieces!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *