Dye sensitized solar cells: Bright prospects

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Dye sensitized solar cells: Bright prospects

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Dye sensitized solar cells: Bright prospects

Subheading text
More efficient solar cells usher in a new era of affordable, renewable energy that may reshape cities and industries.
    • Author:
    • Author name
      Quantumrun Foresight
    • September 11, 2023

    Insight summary

    Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) are rising as a game-changer with their affordability, sustainability, and versatility in various lighting conditions. Breakthroughs in energy efficiency mark a transformative era for applications like mobile devices. Embracing DSSCs has far-reaching implications for job creation, energy independence, and sustainable city planning, bolstering national energy strategies and a greener economy.

    Dye-sensitized solar cells context

    Dye-sensitized solar cells have come to the forefront due to several critical attributes: they are affordable, environmentally friendly, easy to produce, and versatile. They also function effectively under various indoor and outdoor lighting conditions, particularly where there is shade or low light. These unique characteristics place DSSCs in an advantageous position to transform the energy landscape. 

    At their core, these photovoltaic cells consist of three main elements. The first is an electrode created from a transparent conducting oxide substrate, wide-bandgap semiconductors, and dye sensitizer molecules. The rest of the components are an electrolytic mediator and a counter electrode containing catalyst materials. The pursuit of perfecting these elements for enhanced efficiency has seen a surge in research focusing on various organic, metal oxide, composite, and carbon-based materials.

    The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has established a new benchmark for the energy efficiency of DSSCs by utilizing molecules capable of capturing light from the full spectrum of visible light. This breakthrough has implications for transparent solar cells appropriate for windows, glass facades, and mobile electronic gadget screens. Furthermore, the Swedish Algae Factory has pioneered an algae-derived substance, Algica, which has been shown to enhance the energy efficiency of such cells by as much as 36 percent.

    Disruptive impact

    A strategic focus on a simple, cost-effective manufacturing process that leverages natural products is critical for large-scale production and adoption of DSSCs. The transition to DSSCs could catalyze job creation in manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and research and development (R&D), contributing to a thriving green economy. Businesses could become more energy independent, reducing their reliance on grid-based energy and insulating them from price fluctuations in the energy market.

    Industries that stand to gain include those that operate in shaded or low-light conditions where traditional photovoltaic systems are less efficient. For example, an automobile company can incorporate DSSCs into car designs, enabling the vehicle to generate power while exposed to sunlight, reducing the reliance on charging stations. Meanwhile, construction companies could integrate these solar cells into the building's design, creating energy-efficient and self-sustaining structures. Smart cities, for example, can benefit from this innovation as these cities typically use more energy and computing power.

    On a governmental level, the increased efficiency and versatility of DSSCs could bolster national energy strategies. Governments could implement policies and incentives to encourage the adoption of this technology in various sectors, contributing to their carbon neutrality goals. This trend could also encourage R&D into further advancements in renewable energy, creating a cycle of innovation that can make a country a dominant player in this critical industry.

    Implications of dye-sensitized solar cells

    Wider implications of DSSCs may include: 

    • Schools in remote or underprivileged regions securing reliable power supply, enhancing digital learning opportunities and contributing to bridging the education gap.
    • An affordable and reliable power source for remote medical facilities increasing access to critical medical services, including telemedicine.
    • Affordable housing projects reducing living costs for low-income families by minimizing electricity bills.
    • Urban planners designing more energy-efficient cities, reducing reliance on centralized power plants.
    • Traditional energy sector jobs, particularly in fossil fuel industries, being at risk due to the shift toward sustainable energy technologies.
    • Nations with significant investments in traditional energy sources facing economic and instability due to a shift towards renewable energy sources.
    • End-of-life disposal presenting waste management concerns. Regulations and infrastructure would need to evolve to safely manage and recycle DSSC materials.

    Questions to consider

    • If you work in an office, how does your building use renewable energy sources like DSSCs?
    • How else might more efficient solar cells benefit homes and businesses?

    Insight references

    The following popular and institutional links were referenced for this insight: