By Sylvia Tulloch
Dye Solar Cell (DSC) technology, or third generation solar technology, is a biomimetic process that captures energy through photosynthesis, just like a leaf. Using nanoparticulate titanium dioxide as the semiconductor means there is no need for high-purity artificial semiconductors or rare materials in manufacture, thus avoiding high materials cost and potential supply shortages. As a natural process, DSC uses no polluting dopants. In fact, the separation of charge occurs just as in photosynthesis, at the interface between the light absorbing dye and the semiconductor nanoparticles.
The significant difference of DSC technology compared to second generation solar technology, and where great value lies, is that fact that it performs better in normal solar conditions and will generate power consistently all day, every day even in dappled, shaded or low light areas. The cell voltage is virtually constant across the range of light conditions as it is governed by the conduction band of the titanium dioxide and the redox potential of the redox electrolyte─ both of which are fixed by chemistry.
In addition, the cost of manufacturing facilities is significantly less than half that for thin-film technologies such as CdTe and amorphous silicon.
DSC is, by the nanoparticulate nature of the titanium dioxide, bifacial─generating electricity from light from any direction--so DSC can be used at different angles and can be produced in a range of natural colors and light transmission effects including transparent, translucent or opaque. It is ideally suited to integration in building products (BIPV), automotive products (AIPV) and for low light/indoor applications (BAPV), using very little energy for manufacture due to the low temperature processes and absence of high vacuum technology needed for second generation technologies.
By partnering with world-leading building materials manufacturers such as Tata Steel in the U.K. and Pilkington glass in the U.S.A., Dyesol, one of the world leaders in the research, development and industrialization of DSC, is working to turn buildings into power generators. With a number of pilot programs successfully completed, Dyesol via its Joint Venture (JV) partners is on track to offer DSC for commercial building, automotive, low light and indoor products and indoor applications progressively over the next few years.
Globally, the PV industry generated US$82 billion in revenues in 2010 and energy demand is projected to increase by 49% over the next 30 years. There is huge demand for additional sources of energy and DSC is best placed to answer this demand particularly in cities as DSC works well in low-light and dappled conditions typical of urban and city environments, making it an ideal renewable resource for closely packed buildings.
With buildings themselves using more than 71% of all energy produced in the U.S. in 2008, being able to turn buildings into their own power generators is an excellent solution to a growing problem of distant location of solar farms with the inherent high costs of balance of system and grid extension. Integrating the solar power on the built environment creates a new dynamic in supply and use of power, potentially eliminating the traditional energy supply structures and financial models.
In a marketplace driven by many factors such as increasing electricity price, security of supply, safety of power generation and distribution, and global warming, it is estimated that the addressable building market is valued at much more than US$100 billion each year.
Dyesol is collaborating with building materials manufacturers to create materials that are themselves renewable resources─effectively turning each building into a self-sufficient energy generator. The emerging growth of the electric vehicle market is a drawcard for integration of DSC into the body of the car.
In addition to developing the products for use in BIPV, BAPV and AIPV environments, Dyesol is also working to increase the performance and efficiency of dye solar cells at an industrial level--increasing value for money through reducing Levellized Cost of Electricity supplied (LCOE).
UK: Integrating DSC on Steel Sheets in Coil Coating
In the U.K., Dyesol and partner Tata Steel, one of the world’s largest steel producers, have successfully completed the 11 m pilot production phase of integrating DSC on steel sheets in coil coating. The project has produced the world’s largest dye-sensitized photovoltaic module. The module is over 3 meters in length and approximately 1 m2 in area and represents an important step in the development of large-scale micro energy generation capability within the infrastructure of buildings.
Creation of the module has shown the potential, using continuous printing and coating processes, for scaling up the production of steel strips onto which a dye sensitized photovoltaic coating has been printed. Produced as a single length of coated steel, rather than separate cells connected together, the breakthrough brings closer to commercial realization the ambition to develop a manufacturing process that can produce long roofing panels with an integrated DSC function.
Based on the successful pilot phase, the project has recently been expanded with intent to industrialize the manufacturing process as part of planning for commercial production.
Headquartered in North Wales, the project has secured a further ￡2 million support funding from the Welsh Government for materials production establishment.
Europe: Research Projects for Next Generation DSC Technology
Across Europe, Dyesol is involved in three new collaborative research projects for next generation DSC technology. Funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), the projects explore almost every aspect of DSC technology. These projects involve Dyesol subsidiaries in the U.K., Italy and Switzerland and collaborations throughout Europe (the Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Germany, Greece, the U.K., Belgium) as well as India and Singapore.
US: Glass-Based DSC Technology
DyeTec Solar, the 50/50 Joint Venture (JV) with Pilkington North America, won a close to US$1 million grant from the Ohio Third Frontier Fund grant early in 2011 to commence the first phase of a large panel glass project, based in Toledo, Ohio.
Dyesol’s glass-based DSC technology is ideal for the capture of light on all sides of a building and effective conversion into electricity for immediate use within the building, and/or supply electricity directly into the grid even in low-light or dappled conditions.
The technology optimizes Dyesol’s DSC materials and Transparent Conductive Oxide (TCO) glass manufactured by DyeTec’s partners, with the objective of enabling downstream suppliers in the glazing and facade market to mass produce high performing DSC─TCO glass-based products for use in built and mobility environments.
The first milestone of the project has been met with the successful installation of equipment for production of BIPV elements and the relocation of key management and technical resources from California, thereby enabling DyeTec to begin building prototype panels. These panels will lay the foundation for future high volume manufacturing capability.
The building marketplace represents the largest opportunity for DSC technology, with commercial and residential buildings consuming over half of the world’s energy─ mostly directly consumed as electricity.
Japan: Research into Increasing DSC Efficiency
Dyesol was recently selected by the Japanese Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry to receive a prestigious research grant to establish a regional central research laboratory in Japan.
Dyesol is one of only five international companies, and the only solar energy company, that will work with leading Japanese researchers and research groups to develop advanced versions of the dye solar cell materials and devices. The research is targeted at increasing efficiency, in particular developing methods to attain high efficiency levels at very low costs.
Australia: Developing Higher Performing Broad Spectrum Dyes
Dyesol was selected for an investment of up to AUS$1.17 million from the national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), as part of its Australian Growth Partnership program. The project aims to develop higher performing broad spectrum dyes for dye solar cells.
Across the world, Dyesol is working with leading research partners and the support of Government to develop, improve and commercialize high-performing, low-cost DSC technology for industrial use across the built and mobility environments.
Germany: Developing New Chemicals and Formulations for Electrolytes
In Germany, Dyesol is evaluating a number of teaming and collaboration projects for materials and applications of DSC. Two years ago, Dyesol and Merck commenced a collaboration to develop new chemicals and formulations for electrolytes, a core part of the DSC technology. This program will enter its second phase later in 2011 wherein large-scale manufacture will be one aspect of the activities.
Sylvia Tulloch, BSc, MSc, is Director and Joint Founder of Dyesol Limited (www.dyesol.com). Tulloch is a materials scientist with over twenty five years of experience in establishment and management of high technology business, with a particular interest in commercialization processes and the clean technology sector. She was the founding Managing Director of Dyesol limited in 2004 and is now a Director of the ASX-listed company (ASX:DYE), Chairman of EcoQuest (ASX: ECQ) and a director of non-listed companies Uniflow P)ower Limited and Perimeter Security Industries. Tulloch is active in government liason and is currently a member of the Future Manufacturing Industries Innovation Council which advises the Australian Minister for Industry.
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