Researchers from the Queen Mary University of London have discovered a way to use the shells from shrimp and other crustaceans in the construction of solar cells. Currently the low electrical efficiency of these cells means they are not suitable for large scale use. However, the solar cells can be used in portable chargers for electrical devices, such as cell phones or tablets. These solar cells have the promise to yield greater electrical capacity in the future. This would make it cheaper and easier to make solar panels, which would overcome a major hurdle that comes with the solar panels we use today.
The solar cells are made from components in crustacean shells, such as shrimp, called chitin and chitosan. Chitin and chitosan are used in a process called hydrothermal carbonization to create nanoparticles called Carbon Quantum Dots, or CQDs. CQDs are biocompatible, extremely luminescent, and can be easily dispersed in solvents. This means they are easy to apply, and they are very good electrical conductors. The CDQs are then used to coat zinc oxide nanocords to make solar cells. Chitin and chitosan are much cheaper and easier to source than ruthenium, which is the main component in today’s solar panels.
Dr Joe Briscoe, a researcher from the Queen Mary University of London, says “This could be a great new way to make these versatile, quick and easy to produce solar cells from readily available, sustainable materials. Once we’ve improved their efficiency they could be used anywhere that solar cells are used now, particularly to charge the kinds of devices people carry on them every day.”
So, it is entirely possible that in the future your discarded shrimp shells will be used as a sustainable material to create solar panels. Imagine that – charging your cell phone with a solar panel made of the waste from your local seafood buffet!
It is entirely possible that in the future your discarded shrimp shells will be used as a sustainable material to create solar panels.