Jorge Chapa

BREAKTHROUGH IN CHEAP SOLAR POWER!

by , 04/10/07

Solar Panels, solar technology, photovoltaics, green power, green energy, solar energy, nanosolar powers, titanium solar panels, titanium dioxide solar panels, solar panels new zealand dyes

New Zealand is a land of wonderful landscapes, beautiful scenery, and lots of sheep – and soon it will be known as the land of cheap solar power, thanks to the work of Dr. Wayne Campbell at the Nanomaterials Research Centre from Massey University. After 10 years of research, Dr. Campbell has developed solar cell technology capable of generating electricity at a 10th of the cost of current silicon based solar cells.


The technology works by using synthetic dyes made from simple organic compounds patterned after the light harvesting pigments found in plants. The main component is titanium dioxide, a non-toxic material obtained in New Zealand, which allow the dyes to operate even in diffused sunlight. It also makes the manufacturing of these panels a bit easier on the environment, as the technology does not require the amount of infrastructure needed for silicone manufacturing, and even lends itself to local manufacturing.

While the idea behind this technology is not new, the breakthrough in the development of these dyes has put them ahead of similar programs in the US and Japan. While the dyes produce less energy per square meter than those of a standard silicone panel, the fact that they are considerably less expensive makes the use of this technology worthwhile.

There is one other benefit in this technology which is actually pretty darn cool. Because of the nature of the dyes, it is possible for them to be incorporated into everything from wall and roof panels, and of all things, clothing. Which means that someday soon, you might be plugging in not to the electrical outlet, but to your clothes to recharge the numerous gadgets that one carries these days. They expect to have a commercial product within the end of the decade.

+ Article at Stuff.co.nz

+ Massey University Press Release

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16 Comments

  1. Shaman Hawk May 18, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    This is great news. Not only could we plug into our clothes but my girlfriends sex toys could just sit on the window sill and we won’t need batteries.

  2. Johan February 1, 2008 at 5:12 am

    I living in South Africa, and with our powergrid in upgrade we will battle to have enough power for the next 3 – 5 years. I have found many websites that announce new and cheaper solar panels etc, but none of them refers a person to a distributor of such products.
    Any help in this department??

  3. Chris November 16, 2007 at 12:08 am

    I’m building a house and ready to roof. Can someone give me bottom line on availabilty or costs of the solar shingles? Should I put up solar roofing now, vs. adding panels later? I can’t find anything about availabilty of anything (or costs) outside of traditional solar panels.

    Thanks for your quick reply, in progress NOW!

  4. Hariram May 25, 2007 at 1:29 am

    What will be the circuit diagram to connect and collect elecron-charges from the dyes?

  5. Guru May 23, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Well sounds great. I guess it will take a few more years to bring it to market though. Allot of testing will be required to determine useful life against cost etc…

  6. Mark May 13, 2007 at 2:13 am

    Forget it all, just turn your lights off when you leave the house, don’t forget your bike, and lastly stop wathcing so much tv.
    Mark

  7. Reagan April 19, 2007 at 2:56 am

    I think it sounds great ( provided it doesn’t decompose ). It could have several benefits, especially in places like the gulf (UAE), where sunlight is plentiful and space is no problem. If the cost is feasible, we could easily have buildings being constructed completely clad with such cells.

  8. bernard April 16, 2007 at 10:43 am

    climate change is damaging our planet versy fast, please distribute the technology ASAP even without royalty to pay this is anemergency to ourplanet

  9. Nick Simpson April 14, 2007 at 5:53 am

    Whatever way you look at it if it’s a step in the right direction it’s good news. Photovoltaics (i.e. panels that convert the sun’s energy into electricity instead of hot water) simply aren’t financially viable yet. Anything that makes it take that step towards being viable is great.

  10. David April 11, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    Jorge-
    FYI-If I am not mistaken, they are “silicon” not “silicone” solar cells.

  11. Robert April 11, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    The comment about Michael Graetzel is correct. He is the originator of the titanium dye cell. The Konarka company in Lowell, Mass. has further developed this kind of cell in the US, and their products should be widely available in the next year or two.

  12. Fred April 11, 2007 at 7:52 am

    People have been doing this for decades. The idea is that TiO2 is very efficient at turning light into electricity, if the light is in a relatively narrow band in the UV (where sunlight is weak). The dyes absorb light, and inject an electron into the semiconductor, adding an absorbance band where sunlight is stronger. Unfortunately, the dye minus an electron is very reactive, and oxidative decomposition is one of the reaction paths open to the dye. The problem has always been that the dye decomposes fairly rapidly (this incidently has been used to clean up some rather nasty chemical problems on the bench scale). The press release linked to above doesn’t mention if this problem is solved

  13. charles April 11, 2007 at 7:11 am

    this technology was invented in 1991 bei swiss physicist called michael graetzel. it’s know under the common name “graetzel-cell”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dye-sensitized_solar_cells

  14. Jorge Chapa April 11, 2007 at 1:30 am

    Well, from what I can gather, and I admit to not being an expert in the matter, the embodied energy of silicone solar cells is much higher than those manufactured from these dyes.

  15. Ty Jones April 10, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    WOW … is this the break through, or a leeast a lead forward, that consumers have been waiting for?

  16. Dan April 10, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    The useful lifespan of the product is as important as it’s initial cost. i.e. if it only lasts a few years before it’s performance is significantly degraded then it’s ROI may not be as competitive as it first appears. The embodied energy, particularly of the titanium dioxide component, must also be taken into consideration.

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