Magazine article Science News

New Method Lights a Path for Solar Cells

Magazine article Science News

New Method Lights a Path for Solar Cells

Article excerpt

Using a technique in which chemical ingredients assemble themselves, a research team has developed a potentially inexpensive way of making solar cells. So far, high cost has hampered the large-scale use of solar energy systems.

Solar cells, also known as photovoltaic cells, transform photons into electric current without producing pollution. Commercially available solar cells already convert sunlight efficiently enough for certain applications, such as satellites, notes J. Devin MacKenzie of the University of Cambridge in England.

The widespread use of solar power has been elusive because it can be difficult and costly to manufacture the commercial photovoltaic cells, which are made of inorganic crystals such as silicon, MacKenzie says.

Some researchers have tried to circumvent this problem by creating photovoltaic cells from organic components that they can process as easily as plastics. Some of these cells remain in various stages of development, but none are close to becoming commercially, successful.

In the Aug. 10 SCIENCE, MacKenzie and his colleagues report a development that they say could develop into a particularly simple way of making organic solar cells. Their new cell--which they claim is nearly as efficient as the best organic solar cells already made--contains a liquid crystal called peri-hexabenzocoronene and an organic dye called perylene. When poured onto a flat surface, the ingredients arrange themselves into a two-layered film with an internal structure that promotes electron flow. …

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