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.
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.
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.
An effective way to improve polymer solar cell efficiency is to use a tandem structure, as a broader part of the spectrum of solar radiation is used and the thermalization loss of photon energy is minimized. In the past, the lack of high-performance low-bandgap polymers was the major limiting factor for achieving high-performance tandem solar cell. Here we report the development of a high-performance low bandgap polymer (bandgap <1.4 eV), poly[2,7-(5,5-bis-(3,7-dimethyloctyl)-5H-dithieno[3,2-b:2',3'-d]pyran)-alt-4,7-(5,6-difluoro-2,1,3-benzothia diazole)] with a bandgap of 1.38 eV, high mobility, deep highest occupied molecular orbital. As a result, a single-junction device shows high external quantum efficiency of >60% and spectral response that extends to 900 nm, with a power conversion efficiency of 7.9%. The polymer enables a solution processed tandem solar cell with certified 10.6% power conversion efficiency under standard reporting conditions (25 °C, 1,000 Wm(-2), IEC 60904-3 global), which is the first certified polymer solar cell efficiency over 10%.
Carbon nanotube-Si and graphene-Si solar cells have attracted much interest recently owing to their potential in simplifying manufacturing process and lowering cost compared to Si cells. Until now, the power conversion efficiency of graphene-Si cells remains under 10% and well below that of the nanotube-Si counterpart. Here, we involved a colloidal anti-reflection coating onto a monolayer graphene-Si solar cell, and enhanced the cell efficiency to 14.5% under standard illumination (air mass 1.5, 100 mW/cm2) with a stable anti-reflection effect over long time. The anti-reflection treatment was realized by a simple spin-coating process, which significantly increased the short-circuit current density and the incident photon-to-electron conversion efficiency to about 90% across the visible range. Our results demonstrate a great promise in developing high-efficiency graphene-Si solar cells in parallel to the more extensively studied carbon nanotube-Si structures.