A new research funded by the European Union (EU) is inventing new materials and processes to make the manufacturing and use of solar cells more efficient and cost-effective.


Dye-sensitised solar cells have been in use for some decades now and these try to mimic the process of photosynthesis by using photoactive dye that absorbs photons and uses them to excite electrons which are then transferred into a nanocrystalline titanium dioxide layer.

Even though this process works well, high temperature processing for titanium is not compatible with low-cost fabrication methods. This is a short fall for mass production of solar panels and thus is a road block to increase the deployment of solar energy.

The EU-funded research NANOMATCELL project aims to replace titanium with innovative new materials and technologies for high-efficiency, solution processed solar cells.

This required bringing together experts from the fields of material science, chemistry, surface passivation and physics.

The aim was to harness solar energy with the invention of new materials that can yield high-power conversion efficiency and novel panchromatic semiconductors based on environmentally friendly compounds and processes.

The research team had to develop new strategies to synthesise, grow and doping of semiconductor nanacrystals and nanowires. Researchers also had to come up with new dyes that could absorb near-infrared range.

Apart from this, the NANOMATCELL researchers faced a challenge of what to do with the light once it got absorbed. In this regard, the research team created a range of solar cells based on panchromatic inorganic and hybrid absorbers. These absorbers show enhanced performance and potential to further increase optimisation.

The processing methods developed by the team achieve efficiencies in excess of 15% with some solar cells.

Image: EU-Funded research can bring down solar cell cost. Photo: Courtesy of Shutterstock.