Navigation Links
Ancient diatoms lead to new technology for solar energy
Date:4/18/2009

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
rorrergl@engr.oregonstate.edu
541-737-3370
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital ... Sports Association to serve as their official health ... Methodist Willowbrook will provide sponsorship support, athletic training ... association coaches, volunteers, athletes and families. ... Sports Association and to bring Houston Methodist quality ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... SAN FRANCISCO , June 23, 2016   ... it has secured $1 million in debt financing from ... to ramp up automation and to advance its drug ... for its new facility. "SVB has been ... goes beyond the services a traditional bank would provide," ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 Apellis Pharmaceuticals, ... 1 clinical trials of its complement C3 inhibitor, ... and multiple ascending dose studies designed to assess ... of subcutaneous injection in healthy adult volunteers. ... either as a single dose (ranging from 45 ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ClinCapture, ... Pennsylvania Convention Center and will showcase its product’s latest features from June 26 ... presenting a scientific poster on Disrupting Clinical Trials in The Cloud during the ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:6/1/2016)... -- Favorable Government Initiatives Coupled With Implementation ... to Boost Global Biometrics System Market Through 2021  ... " Global Biometrics Market By Type, By End ... - 2021", the global biometrics market is projected to ... growing security concerns across various end use sectors such ...
(Date:5/20/2016)... , May 20, 2016  VoiceIt is ... partnership with VoicePass. By working together, ... experience.  Because VoiceIt and VoicePass take slightly different ... engines increases both security and usability. ... excitement about this new partnership. "This ...
(Date:5/12/2016)... WearablesResearch.com , a brand of Troubadour Research & ... Q1 wave of its quarterly wearables survey. A particular ... a program where they would receive discounts for sharing ... "We were surprised to see that so many ... CEO of Troubadour Research, "primarily because there are segments ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):