Concept: Energy conversion
Solar energy is potentially the largest source of renewable energy at our disposal, but significant advances are required to make photovoltaic technologies economically viable and, from a life-cycle perspective, environmentally friendly, and consequently scalable. Cellulose nanomaterials are emerging high-value nanoparticles extracted from plants that are abundant, renewable, and sustainable. Here, we report on the first demonstration of efficient polymer solar cells fabricated on optically transparent cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) substrates. The solar cells fabricated on the CNC substrates display good rectification in the dark and reach a power conversion efficiency of 2.7%. In addition, we demonstrate that these solar cells can be easily separated and recycled into their major components using low-energy processes at room temperature, opening the door for a truly recyclable solar cell technology. Efficient and easily recyclable organic solar cells on CNC substrates are expected to be an attractive technology for sustainable, scalable, and environmentally-friendly energy production.
Active electronic implants are powered by primary batteries, which induces the necessity of implant replacement after battery depletion. This causes repeated interventions in a patients' life, which bears the risk of complications and is costly. By using energy harvesting devices to power the implant, device replacements may be avoided and the device size may be reduced dramatically. Recently, several groups presented prototypes of implants powered by subcutaneous solar cells. However, data about the expected real-life power output of subcutaneously implanted solar cells was lacking so far. In this study, we report the first real-life validation data of energy harvesting by subcutaneous solar cells. Portable light measurement devices that feature solar cells (cell area = 3.6 cm(2)) and continuously measure a subcutaneous solar cell’s output power were built. The measurement devices were worn by volunteers in their daily routine in summer, autumn and winter. In addition to the measured output power, influences such as season, weather and human activity were analyzed. The obtained mean power over the whole study period was 67 µW (=19 µW cm(-2)), which is sufficient to power e.g. a cardiac pacemaker.
Combining carbon nanotubes (CNTs), graphene or conducting polymers with conventional silicon wafers leads to promising solar cell architectures with rapidly improved power conversion efficiency until recently. Here, we report CNT-Si junction solar cells with efficiencies reaching 15% by coating a TiO(2) antireflection layer and doping CNTs with oxidative chemicals, under air mass (AM 1.5) illumination at a calibrated intensity of 100 mW/cm(2) and an active device area of 15 mm(2). The TiO(2) layer significantly inhibits light reflectance from the Si surface, resulting in much enhanced short-circuit current (by 30%) and external quantum efficiency. Our method is simple, well-controlled, and very effective in boosting the performance of CNT-Si solar cells.
We report an enhancement in the efficiency of organic solar cells via the incorporation of gold (Au) or silver (Ag) nanoparticles (NPs) in the hole-transporting buffer layer of poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene):poly(styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS), which was formed on an indium tin oxide (ITO) surface by the spin-coating of PEDOT:PSS-Au or Ag NPs composite solution. The composite solution was synthesized by a simple in situ preparation method which involved the reduction of chloroauric acid (HAuCl4) or silver nitrate (AgNO3) with sodium borohydride (NaBH4) solution in the presence of aqueous PEDOT:PSS media. The NPs were well dispersed in the PEDOT:PSS media and showed a characteristic absorption peak due to the surface plasmon resonance effect. Organic solar cells with the structure of ITO/PEDOT:PSS-Au, Ag NPs/poly(3-hexylthiophene):[6,6]-phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester (P3HT:PC61BM)/LiF/Al exhibited an 8% improvement in their power conversion efficiency mainly due to the enlarged surface roughness of the PEDOT:PSS, which lead to an improvement in the charge collection and ultimately improvements in the short-circuit current density and fill factor.
Direct electric power generation using biological functions have become a research focus due to their low cost and cleanliness. Unlike major approaches using glucose fuels or microbial fuel cells (MFCs), we present a generation method with intrinsically high energy conversion efficiency and generation with arbitrary timing using living electric organs of Torpedo (electric rays) which are serially integrated electrocytes converting ATP into electric energy. We developed alternative nervous systems using fluid pressure to stimulate electrocytes by a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine (Ach), and demonstrated electric generation. Maximum voltage and current were 1.5 V and 0.64 mA, respectively, with a duration time of a few seconds. We also demonstrated energy accumulation in a capacitor. The current was far larger than that using general cells other than electrocytes (~pA level). The generation ability was confirmed against repetitive cycles and also after preservation for 1 day. This is the first step toward ATP-based energy harvesting devices.
Lead halide perovskite solar cells (PSCs) appear to be the ideal future candidate for photovoltaic applications owing to the rapid development in recent years. The electron transport layers (ETLs) prepared by low-temperature process are essential for widespread implementation and large-scale commercialization of PSCs. Here, we report an effective approach for producing planar PSCs with Al(3+) doped SnO2 ETLs prepared by using a low-temperature solution-processed method. The Al dopant in SnO2 enhanced the charge transport behavior of planar PSCs and increased the current density of the devices, compared with the undoped SnO2 ETLs. Moreover, the enhanced electrical property also improved the fill factors (FF) and power conversion efficiency (PCE) of the solar cells. This study has indicated that the low-temperature solution-processed Al-SnO2 is a promising ETL for commercialization of planar PSCs.
Wearable electronics fabricated on lightweight and flexible substrate are believed to have great potential for portable devices, but their applications are limited by the life span of their batteries. We propose a hybridized self-charging power textile system with the aim of simultaneously collecting outdoor sunshine and random body motion energies and then storing them in an energy storage unit. Both of the harvested energies can be easily converted into electricity by using fiber-shaped dye-sensitized solar cells (for solar energy) and fiber-shaped triboelectric nanogenerators (for random body motion energy) and then further stored as chemical energy in fiber-shaped supercapacitors. Because of the all-fiber-shaped structure of the entire system, our proposed hybridized self-charging textile system can be easily woven into electronic textiles to fabricate smart clothes to sustainably operate mobile or wearable electronics.
We have proposed and successfully demonstrated a novel approach to direct conversion of mechanical energy into electrical energy using microfluidics. The method combines previously demonstrated reverse electrowetting on dielectric (REWOD) phenomenon with the fast self-oscillating process of bubble growth and collapse. Fast bubble dynamics, used in conjunction with REWOD, provides a possibility to increase the generated power density by over an order of magnitude, as compared to the REWOD alone. This energy conversion approach is particularly well suited for energy harvesting applications and can enable effective coupling to a broad array of mechanical systems including such ubiquitous but difficult to utilize low-frequency energy sources as human and machine motion. The method can be scaled from a single micro cell with 10(-6) W output to power cell arrays with a total power output in excess of 10 W. This makes the fabrication of small light-weight energy harvesting devices capable of producing a wide range of power outputs feasible.
Despite the impressive photovoltaic performances with power conversion efficiency beyond 22%, perovskite solar cells are poorly stable under operation, failing by far the market requirements. Various technological approaches have been proposed to overcome the instability problem, which, while delivering appreciable incremental improvements, are still far from a market-proof solution. Here we show one-year stable perovskite devices by engineering an ultra-stable 2D/3D (HOOC(CH2)4NH3)2PbI4/CH3NH3PbI3 perovskite junction. The 2D/3D forms an exceptional gradually-organized multi-dimensional interface that yields up to 12.9% efficiency in a carbon-based architecture, and 14.6% in standard mesoporous solar cells. To demonstrate the up-scale potential of our technology, we fabricate 10 × 10 cm(2) solar modules by a fully printable industrial-scale process, delivering 11.2% efficiency stable for >10,000 h with zero loss in performances measured under controlled standard conditions. This innovative stable and low-cost architecture will enable the timely commercialization of perovskite solar cells.
The iodide/triiodide redox shuttle has limited the efficiencies accessible in dye-sensitized solar cells. Here, we report mesoscopic solar cells that incorporate a Co((II/III))tris(bipyridyl)-based redox electrolyte in conjunction with a custom synthesized donor-π-bridge-acceptor zinc porphyrin dye as sensitizer (designated YD2-o-C8). The specific molecular design of YD2-o-C8 greatly retards the rate of interfacial back electron transfer from the conduction band of the nanocrystalline titanium dioxide film to the oxidized cobalt mediator, which enables attainment of strikingly high photovoltages approaching 1 volt. Because the YD2-o-C8 porphyrin harvests sunlight across the visible spectrum, large photocurrents are generated. Cosensitization of YD2-o-C8 with another organic dye further enhances the performance of the device, leading to a measured power conversion efficiency of 12.3% under simulated air mass 1.5 global sunlight.