Power generated from the under water solar cells will be used to spur chemical reactions in order to convert captured greenhouse gases into fuel unlike traditional solar cells which pump electricity into the grid.

Published in Nature Materials, the new work was led by Stanford materials scientist Paul McIntyre.

As part of a futuristic technology known as artificial photosynthesis, researchers have found out a way to use solar energy to combine CO2 with H2O. Using energy from solar cells, artificial photosynthesis will combine water with captured carbon dioxide to produce industrial fuels, such as natural gas.

The researchers addressed the corrosion problem in 2011 as ordinary silicon solar cells corrode under water.

Other challenge before the researchers was to create solar cells that can capture enough sunlight as corrosion-proof solar cells were unable to capture enough sunlight under water for required for right chemical reactions.

In the new paper, researchers addressed these challenges by highlighting ways to increase the power of corrosion-resistant solar cells by adding a layer of charged silicon between the titanium oxide and the basic silicon cell.

The resulting device features an active silicon layer at the bottom to absorb sunlight and exciting electrons while the above layer, silicon dioxide booster, will increase the voltage.

The transparent titanium dioxide is placed on top of the booster to seal the system and prevent corrosion. It also serves as a conductor.

McIntyre added. "The results reported in this paper are significant because they represent not only an advance in performance of silicon artificial photosynthesis cells, but also establish the design rules needed to achieve high performance for a wide array of different semiconductors, corrosion protection layers and catalysts."

Researchers intend to use solar cells inside the giant, transparent chemical tanks, which funnel greenhouse gases from smokestacks or the atmosphere.

By driving chemical reactions, the solar cells would turn the greenhouse gases and water into solar fuels.

Image: Stanford engineers have shown how to increase the power of corrosion-resistant solar cells. Photo: courtesy of Shutterstock/ Stanford University.