October 22, 2014

New solar cells are fully charged! No batteries required

Solar cells, though incredibly energy efficient, are not perfect. In fact, about 20 percent of the energy solar cells collect is lost when it is transferred and stored in a battery. But thanks to Ohio State University researchers it seems this storage problem may become a thing of the past.

Professor of biochemistry at Ohio State University, Yiying Wu and his team announced their progress in the Nature Communications journal this month, claiming to have created a new solar cell that not only absorbs the sun’s energy but also stores it. This new technology reportedly boosts cell efficiency from 80 to nearly 100 percent by decreasing energy lost when electrons move from the cell to the battery. They also believe that by combining the solar cell with a battery aspect, they will reduce the cost of solar alternative energy by 25 percent.

The secret to this solar cell-battery hybrid is in its ingenious “breathing” design. Professor of biochemistry at Ohio State, Yiying Wu, explains that because of the solar cell’s mesh-like construction it “…breathes in air when it discharges, and breathes out when it charges.” Sunlight hits the solar panel’s mesh surface, the first electrode of the battery, creating electrons. These electrons are carried by an iodide additive within the electrolyte, separating the second electrode from the first and third electrodes. This iodide is the key to increasing the new cells’ energy storage capability.

After early tests, Wu and his team are so confident in the prototype that they have even asserted the battery life of this new product is comparable to that of traditional batteries on the market. Though it is far from ready for the mass market—as more research is needed to determine exactly how long these batteries last and how much more efficient they can be made—in the next ten to twenty years, these solar cell batteries may change the solar game forever.






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