Michael Grätzel has won the 2010 Millennium Technology Award for what has been achieved by the third generation of dye-sensitized solar cells. It is the recognition of what is known as “artificial photosynthesis.”

Michael Grätzel has been named the winner by the management of Technology Academy Finland on the basis of proposals from an international panel of experts. The election has taken into account two facts: that one of the greatest challenges facing humanity is to find alternatives to fossil fuels and primary energy source is the sun, which come almost all energy resources of the planet. In this context, explains the award.

In the words of Ainomaija Haarle, managing director of the Technology Academy Finland, “the major obstacle of solar energy has traditionally been its price. Grätzel cells offer a more economical to put solar energy in the service of man. Grätzel’s innovation is likely to have an important role in applications of renewable energy sources and therefore in promoting sustainable development.”

Artificial photosynthesis
Michael Grätzel invented in 1991 a solar cell is built with cheap materials through a simple manufacturing process. Its structure are two flat electrodes and a dye that generates electrons in contact with light. One of the electrodes is an electrically conductive glass and the other is composed of titanium dioxide nanocrystals deposited on a glass conductor.

Its operation is summarized in that sunlight passes through the first electrode and is absorbed by the dye that is impregnated with the second electrode. The dye molecule, in contact with the light excites an electron moving toward the conduction band generating an electrical current. According to the Millennium award jury, “may use this same technology in hydrogen production and the development of batteries, very important components to meet future energy needs.”

Grätzel cells, although they are still at a relatively early stage of development, it is believed that the future can be a very economical alternative to replace silicon solar cells. He ventures that they could create windows that will store solar energy and solar panels much cheaper than at present.

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