Navigation Links
Ancient diatoms lead to new technology for solar energy

CORVALLIS, Ore. Engineers at Oregon State University have discovered a way to use an ancient life form to create one of the newest technologies for solar energy, in systems that may be surprisingly simple to build compared to existing silicon-based solar cells.

The secret: diatoms.

These tiny, single-celled marine life forms have existed for at least 100 million years and are the basis for much of the life in the oceans, but they also have rigid shells that can be used to create order in a natural way at the extraordinarily small level of nanotechnology.

By using biology instead of conventional semiconductor manufacturing approaches, researchers at OSU and Portland State University have created a new way to make "dye-sensitized" solar cells, in which photons bounce around like they were in a pinball machine, striking these dyes and producing electricity. This technology may be slightly more expensive than some existing approaches to make dye-sensitized solar cells, but can potentially triple the electrical output.

"Most existing solar cell technology is based on silicon and is nearing the limits of what we may be able to accomplish with that," said Greg Rorrer, an OSU professor of chemical engineering. "There's an enormous opportunity to develop different types of solar energy technology, and it's likely that several forms will ultimately all find uses, depending on the situation."

Dye-sensitized technology, for instance, uses environmentally benign materials and works well in lower light conditions. And the new findings offer advances in manufacturing simplicity and efficiency.

"Dye-sensitized solar cells already exist," Rorrer said. "What's different in our approach are the steps we take to make these devices, and the potential improvements they offer."

The new system is based on living diatoms, which are extremely small, single-celled algae, which already have shells with the nanostructure that is needed. They are allowed to settle on a transparent conductive glass surface, and then the living organic material is removed, leaving behind the tiny skeletons of the diatoms to form a template.

A biological agent is then used to precipitate soluble titanium into very tiny "nanoparticles" of titanium dioxide, creating a thin film that acts as the semiconductor for the dye-sensitized solar cell device. Steps that had been difficult to accomplish with conventional methods have been made easy through the use of these natural biological systems, using simple and inexpensive materials.

"Conventional thin-film, photo-synthesizing dyes also take photons from sunlight and transfer it to titanium dioxide, creating electricity," Rorrer said. "But in this system the photons bounce around more inside the pores of the diatom shell, making it more efficient."

The physics of this process, Rorrer said, are not fully understood but it clearly works. More so than materials in a simple flat layer, the tiny holes in diatom shells appear to increase the interaction between photons and the dye to promote the conversion of light to electricity, and improve energy production in the process.

The insertion of nanoscale tinanium oxide layers into the diatom shell has been reported in ACS Nano, a publication of the American Chemical Society, and the Journal of Materials Research, a publication of the Materials Research Society. The integration of this material into a dye-sensitized solar cell device was also recently described at the fourth annual Greener Nanoscience Conference.


Contact: Greg Rorrer
Oregon State University

Related biology technology :

1. New property found in ancient mineral lodestone
2. Evidence of Ancient Hot Springs on Mars Detailed in Astrobiology Journal
3. Spherix Shareholders Support Companys Focus on Naturlose, Biotechnology
4. Novel Technology Breaks Through Cancer Pain
5. Amyris Biotechnologies Co-Founder Neil Renninger Named to Technology Reviews Prestigious TR35 List of Top Young Innovators
6. Advanced Cell Technology Announces Proposed Financing
7. Advanced Cell Technologys Dr. Robert Lanza Makes List of 100 Most Inspiring People in the Life-Sciences Industry
8. Operon Biotechnologies and DNA2.0 Announce Co-Marketing and Technology Development Partnership
9. BioMarin Licenses Technology From Leading Cystic Fibrosis Research Laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco
10. Microchip Biotechnologies, Inc. Secures Exclusive License to Use New University of Alberta Technology for Developing Microfluidic Devices
11. MedImmune Licenses Reverse Genetics Technology to Novartis for Use in Influenza Vaccine Development and Production
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/24/2015)... AVIV, Israel , Nov. 24, 2015  Tikcro Technologies Ltd. (OTCQB: ... held on December 29, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. Israel ... Co., Electra Tower, 98 Yigal Allon Street, 36 th Floor, ... election of Eric Paneth and Izhak Tamir to ... and Rami Skaliter as external directors; , approval of an amendment ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Urdorf, Switzerland (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 ... ... the plant and the environment are paramount. Insertion points for in-line sensors can ... TOLEDO has developed the InTrac 781/784 series of retractable sensor housings , ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Telbec/ - ProMetic Life Sciences Inc. (TSX: PLI) (OTCQX: PFSCF) ... Laurin , President and Chief Executive Officer of ProMetic, will ... 27 th Annual Healthcare Conference to be held at ... st , at 8.50am (ET) and ProMetic,s management ... The presentation will be available live via a webcast accessible ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015  PDL BioPharma, Inc. (PDL) (NASDAQ: ... , the company,s president and chief executive officer, will present ... next week in New York City . ... Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 9:30 a.m. EST. ... to the website at least 15 minutes prior to the ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:11/2/2015)...  SRI International has been awarded a contract of ... to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) PREVENT Cancer Program ... modern testing and support facilities, and analytical instrumentation to ... studies to evaluate potential cancer prevention drugs. ... Drug Development Program is an NCI-supported pipeline to bring ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... Oct. 29, 2015  Rubicon Genomics, Inc., today ... distribution of its DNA library preparation products, including ... new ThruPLEX Plasma-seq kit. ThruPLEX Plasma-seq has been ... of NGS libraries for liquid biopsies--the analysis of ... prognostic applications in cancer and other conditions. Eurofins ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... 27, 2015 In the present market scenario, ... for various industry verticals such as banking, healthcare, defense, ... growing demand for secure & simplified access control and ... as hacking of bank accounts, misuse of users, , ... as PC,s, laptops, and smartphones are expected to provide ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):