University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers are working on next-generation solar cells that are made from organic dyes instead of silicon. The dye solar cells could drive down costs and spread solar energy to small electronics and appliances.

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“It turns out that the same fundamental properties that give dye molecules their color also allow them to conduct electricity and generate power,” said assistant chemistry Professor Trisha Andrew. The researchers are working with a dye called copper phthalocyanine, which produces the color blue that is found in plastics, vehicles, clothes and other products.

Dye-based solar cells have an advantage because the materials are cheaper than silicon and more efficient. Instead of using a glass base, the ultra thin films can be laid down on material as light as paper as they are capable of absorbing a tremendous amount of light. A 50 nanometer thick layer of dye is all that is needed to create a solar cell.


Lead image via Dyesol