The most efficient solar cells, composed of a semiconductor material such as silicon, have been developed in Switzerland in the early 90s. As in the case of conventional electrochemical batteries, solar cells consist of a cathode, a platinum-based catalyst, and an anode, a porous layer formed from titanium dioxide nanoparticles and coated with a dye absorbs sunlight. A conductive liquid, the electrolyte is placed between two electrodes.
Despite the use of materials for most inexpensive, easy to manufacture and flexible, large-scale commercialization of these batteries confronts two major obstacles. The electrolyte is very corrosive, causing a deficiency in sustainability. It is also very colorful, preventing light from entering and effectively limiting the photo-voltage of 0.7 volts. Moreover, platinum is an expensive material, non-transparent and rare.
Benoit Marsan and his team have been working for years to develop an electrochemical solar cell. With the help of Professor Livain Breau, also the Department of Chemistry, researchers have developed an electrolyte consisting of new molecules, whose concentration could be increased. The gel formed is transparent, non-corrosive and can increase the photo-voltage. Therefore, the battery is more stable and better performance. The platinum cathode has also been replaced with cobalt sulfide. This material is much less expensive than platinum. It is also more efficient, more stable and easier to produce in the laboratory.
The scientific community was excited about these proposals. Several researchers contend that the work of Professor Marsan, published in the Journal of American Chemical Society and The Nature Chemistry “, represents a breakthrough towards the production of solar cells efficient and affordable.