Innovative Solar Dyes: Inexpensive Liquid Solar Power

Researchers from the Nanomaterials Research Centre at Massey University in New Zealand have developed synthetic dyes that can be used to generate electricity at one tenth of the cost of current silicon-based solar panels. These photosynthesis-like compounds work in low-light conditions and can be cheaply incorporated into window-panes and building materials, thereby turning them into generators of electricity.

Dr Wayne Campbell and researchers in the center have developed a range of coloured dyes for use in dye-sensitized solar cells. The synthetic dyes are made from simple organic compounds closely related to those found in nature. The green dye Dr Campbell is synthetic chlorophyll derived from the light-harvesting pigment plants use for photosynthesis. Other dyes being tested in the cells are based on hemoglobin, the compound that give blood its color.

Dr Campbell says that unlike the silicon-based solar cells currently on the market, the 10x10cm green demonstration cells generate enough electricity to run a small fan in low-light conditions – making them ideal for cloudy climates. The dyes can also be incorporated into tinted windows that trap to generate electricity.

He says the green solar cells are more environmentally friendly than silicon-based cells as they are made from titanium dioxide – a plentiful, renewable and non-toxic white mineral obtained from New Zealand’s black sand. Titanium dioxide is already used in consumer products such as toothpaste, white paints and cosmetics.

“The refining of pure silicon, although a very abundant mineral, is energy-hungry and very expensive. And whereas silicon cells need direct sunlight to operate efficiently, these cells will work efficiently in low diffuse light conditions,” Dr Campbell says.

“The expected cost is one 10th of the price of a silicon-based solar panel, making them more attractive and accessible to home-owners.”

See: Massey University Press Release

28 thoughts on “Innovative Solar Dyes: Inexpensive Liquid Solar Power”

  1. We are very interested in your product and would be keen to see its applications here in Jamaica and possible arrange to operate as your agent here. We are not short of sunlight in our tropical paradise. Energy costs here are among the highest in our region and possible the world so I could see significant opportunities for your product here and for our country. Please let me know how and where I can get more information on this fantastic product.

    julian McMorris

  2. Good to see the advances coming along in solar. However the article only briefly mentions a level of output. Low cost is one important aspect, but the output is the key.

  3. Interesting article to raise awarness on the direction solar is heading. Good to see cost is down, but there was no mention made on the output of these panels, and output is everything.

  4. This really looks like a breakthrough! However this was posted more than a year ago… Anybody can tell what has happened to this technology since then?

  5. This is fantastic! Thank you for figuring it out. I have a couple of questions, such as: Is the liquid used a water, oil, or alcohol base or does it matter? Also. How does the liquid hold up in colder climates such as in the North East US or Canada?

  6. These have fantastic potential.

    Design them like stained-glass windows so they are beautiful and generate electricity at the same time. They could then be incorporated right into the basic building structure rather than being less aesthetic add-ons. You could put them across the tops of living room windows, or fill the whole window if it’s something like a church or a bathroom window. Lots of possibilities.

    You could make them into lampshades, as well, to power the lamp. It could be designed like a Tiffany lamp.

    They could also be used as glass replacement for sundecks. Since sundecks get a lot of sun, you have a pretty sundeck, with attractive colors, AND the benefit of electricity for the house and barbecue.

  7. I am very, very interested in the cost effectiveness of this material. Please contact me as soon as you can if its not too late. I am looking to start dealing to the public in my area. thanks

  8. Please keep me updated on developments.

    How big a panel would be needed to produce 1Kw of electricity/hour in low light levels?

    I live in the UK what sort of performance could one expect here?

  9. Really interesting; More info about how to produce it or buy it will be really apreciated.
    I’m working on making my house a green house, from the electricity to water treatment.
    Also I’m creating a organic vegetable garden for our own use.
    If you need a place to test it, I live near the equator, which could give you tons of information.

  10. Dr. OmPrakash G. Kulkarni

    Respected Prof. Sir,

    It very interesting to know your work. How can I get sample for my trials. Is it possible to commercially produce on large scale ? If yes how.

    With regards

    Dr. OmPrakash G. Kulkarni

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