In the immediate future, solid state technologies based on silicon are likely to predominate the production (manufacture) of solar cells, but DSC and other "runners ups" are likely to lower costs in the long term, using cheaper semiconductor materials to produce robust flexible sheets strong enough to resist buffeting from hail for example. Although less efficient than the very best silicon or thin film cells using current technology, their better price/performance has led the European Union to predict that DSCs will be a significant contributor to renewable energy production in Europe by 2020. The DSC was invented by Michael Grtzel, one of the speakers and vice chair at the ESF conference.
The key point to emerge from the ESF conference, though, is that there will be growing choice and competition between emerging nanotechnology-based solar conversion technologies. "I think the important fact is that there is strong competition and that installed solar power is growing very rapidly, albeit from a small base," said Kasemo."This will push prices down and make solar electricity more and more competitive."
Some of the most exciting of these alternatives lie in the field of biomimetics, which involves mimicking processes that have been perfected in biological organisms through eons of evolution. Plants and a class of bacteria, cyanobacteria, have evolved photosynthesis, involving the harvesting of light and the splitting of water into electrons and protons to provide a stream of energy that in turn produces the key molecules of life. Photosynthesis can potentially be harnessed either in genetically-engineered organisms, or completely artificial human-made systems that mimic the processes, to produce carbon-free fuels such as hydrogen. Alternat
|Contact: Professor Bengt Kasemo|
European Science Foundation