The hippies were the first to push solar energy en masse in the 70′s, so it’s a wonder we haven’t thought of this before — it turns out the same stuff used to tie-dye t-shirts can increase the efficiency of solar panels. A new paper released in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy details the discovery that many common off-the-shelf dyes — as well as dyes used in the medical and food industry — can make solar panels more effective when mixed properly. The researchers basically use the dye to change the color spectrum that the panel can absorb, thereby increasing its efficiency by as much as 8%.
Ram Mehra of Sharda University in Greater Noida, India found that by using various dyes commonly utilized by the food industry in canned goods, off-the-shelf dyes like RIT, and dyes used by the medical industry, they could manipulate the color absorption spectrum of photovoltaic panels to make solar energy more effective. This innovation comes on the heels of other technological advances in the solar energy industry that are decidedly more future-forward — like innovations in light bending polymer stickers.
The article is entitled “Development of a dye with broadband absorbance in visible spectrum for an efficient dye-sensitized solar cell” and its authors note that, “by changing composition of the mixture, its properties will change to be more or less suited to a particular useful application.” This discovery could open new frontiers for the solar industry. Coupled with recent advances in efficiency resulting from high-tech discoveries, this low-tech innovation could not only produce more effective solar cells, but could present us with a literal rainbow of choices when it comes to choosing our array.