Alert EcoGeek readers will remember that University of Washington scientists reported building dye-sensitized solar cells with around 6% efficiency last April. This itself was a major improvement, a success attributed to a novel particle structure (see that post for details). It seems, though that there is a new player in town – Peng Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences recently announced a breakthrough technology that will produce 10% efficient cells.
10% efficiency might not sound like a lot, compared to silicon cells. But dye-sensitized solar makes up for its relatively low efficiency with its very low cost and ease of manufacture. Unlike silicon, which requires raw materials to be extensively processed, these thin solar films are made with cheap compounds such as titanium dioxide.
There’s a catch, though. Although Wang’s cells can claim to be most efficient in their class, they are not made out of titanium dioxide, but rather ruthenium – a rare metal. Unless the effects of this new material can be replicated with cheaper, more abundant materials, it seems difficult to call this a real victory in the field.
Image via Creative Commons
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