Dye solar cells become useful

31 07 2011

The recent tsunami disaster in Japan will take a long time to recover. Many people is still homeless and living in common shelters. This causes great discomfort, for example sharing a room with several dozens of people creates many problems in practical life. Satosi Uchida is a professor at RCAST (Research Center of Advanced Science and Technology) in Tokio. He is leading a strong program in cooperation of several major industries for the production of commercial dye-sensitized solar cell modules (DSC). The DSC is a promising photovoltaic technology based on a thin layer of nanoporous titania covered with an organic dye light absorber and completed with a nonaquesous electrolyte. DSC is expected to lead to cheap and powerful energy producing technology, it has experienced a great development in terms of stability and increasing module efficiency in the last years, though the large scale production is not open to the market yet. However, the japanese have developed the technology to a high level, and so Uchida decided to manufacture the first DSC device on the level of hundreds of units. It is a simple device, consisting on a single DSC module that feeds a battery with electricity. The battery can be thus charged during the day and power a LED in the night. It is therefore a lamp that does not require battery replacement.

The lamp was produced and distributed and is realizing the function it was designed to, in the shelters. It is to my knowledge the first practical application of the DSC device on a reasonable scale. This week there was a gathering of a few DSC scientists for the opening of a major research center for Nanostructured Photosystems at the  Energy Research Institute of Nanyang Technological University, in Singapore. Uchida presented the DSC device (as well as a great development of a new dye that produces impressive photocurrent) and gave one sample to Michael Grätzel, that discovered the DSC exactly 20 years ago. Grätzel was very happy, it seems that the DSC is coming of age.

Satosi Uchida presents a DSC working device to Michael Gratzel