TUESDAY 26 APRIL, 2011 |
Solar Cell Efficiency Boosted With A Virus
Through harnessing viruses as workers, MIT
have developed a method of improving the conversion efficiency
of solar cells.
While the incorporation of tiny carbon nanotubes in a solar cell's structure can
improve the cell's power conversion efficiency, arranging the nanotubes
appropriately has been quite a challenge due to varying nanotube properties and
the tendency for them to bundle together.
Using a genetically engineered version of a virus called M13, the researchers
found the arrangement of the nanotubes can be controlled to ensure circuits
aren't shorted out and the tubes don't clump together. The result is a power conversion efficiency
improvement of around a third, while only increasing the cell's weight by a
tenth of a percent.
The tests were carried out on dye-sensitised solar cells, but the researchers
say the same technique could be applied to other solar cell technologies also, including
Dye-sensitised solar cells
had limited uptake in several countries to date, but with the significant boost
offered by the added virus technology, these types of solar cells may become
According to Angela Belcher, the W. M. Keck Professor of Energy, as the process
would only add a single step to current standard solar-cell manufacturing; it should be
viable to adapt existing production facilities rapidly. The viruses create nanotubes
that are soluble in water, so they can be incorporated into the solar cell using a water-based process
at room temperature.
This breakthrough development isn't the first time a virus has been utilised in
connection with renewable energy related technology. Researchers at the
University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering and College of
Agriculture and Natural Resources last year began utilising the tobacco virus to
create a new generation of highly
that will offer ten times the energy capacity standard
lithium ion battery.
In 2009, MIT researchers demonstrated the ability to genetically engineer
construct lithium-ion battery anodes
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