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Solar Energy Chemistry: Is This The Future?

People are looking for the next sustainable energy source. That energy source should not only be practical, but inexpensive as well. Many of today’s alternative sustainable energy sources aren’t exactly cheap. Scientists are now looking at solar energy chemistry, and wonder is this the future?

The study has been made by a group of European chemists that is led by Professor Joost Reek. He comes from the University of Amsterdam’s research priority area of Sustainable Chemistry. The concept being proposed is solar energy chemistry that can possibly be used in the future for fuel, chemicals and material.

Professor Reek is known for his involvement in solar-driven chemistry. For the study, he said that there is a need for breakthroughs in order to move solar-driven chemistry to reality. He envisions a movement that would involve a wide European solar-driven community that could do research as well as be more active in the industry.

Professor Reek cites examples of such recent work involving solar-driven chemistry, according to the University of Amsterdam’s site. One such example that he notes is the use of novel molecules for solar-driven hydrogen generation. This has been done by the French company PorphyChem. Another one that he notes is for the development of a photoelectrochemical cell that can convert carbon dioxide to methanol.

Two Dutch research institutes have joined the University of Amsterdam and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in getting energy from the Sun through the use of photovoltaics, photocatalysis and photosynthesis, as Science Daily reports. These two institutes are ECN and FOM-AMOLF. This is the sort of European community for solar-driven chemistry that Professor Reek envisions.

Solar-driven energy is a long-term initiative for a much more sustainable energy future. The paper made by Professor Reek and his colleagues state that solar-driven chemical energy from the Sun is needed for the future. This will create a competitive European effort in the industry as well as in research. Solar energy chemistry then can answer the question: is this the future? Earlier also cheaper solar cells were reportedly being developed.

Source: http://www.itechpost.com/articles/52138/20161109/solar-energy-chemistry-future.htm

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Indian researcher produces stable solar cells

In a first, a researcher from Pune’s Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) has successfully produced a stable, high-efficiency, all-inorganic perovskite nanocrystal solar cells. The new material has 10.77% efficiency to convert sunlight to electricity.

The results were published on October 7 in the journal Science.

Traditional research has been around a hybrid organic-inorganic halide perovskite material.

Though the hybrid material has high efficiency of over 22%, the organic component in it is volatile and becomes completely unstable under ambient conditions within a short span of time. This renders the material unsuitable for commercial photovoltaic applications.

Problems in bulk form

So Abhishek Swarnkar, a research scholar from the Department of Chemistry at IISER and lead author of the paper, and others from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Colorado, U.S., replaced methyl ammonium, the organic component, with cesium to produce the material of cesium lead iodide.

“Though the completely inorganic material is stable, there are problems. In bulk form [bigger size crystal], the cesium lead iodide perovskite absorbs sunlight light only up to about 400 nm. So it does not have much application as a photovoltaic material,” says Mr. Swarnkar.

One way of making the bulk material capable of absorbing the entire range of visible sunlight (400-700 nm) is to heat it to 300 degree C so that is attains a desirable crystal structure (cubic phase). But when the material cools down to room temperature, where photovoltaics normally operate, it once again regains its undesired crystal structure (orthorhombic) and loses the ability to absorb sunlight beyond 400 nm.

“We found that by reducing the size of the crystals to nanometre range, the material at ambient temperature is able to absorb visible sunlight till 700 nm. This is because the material retains the desirable crystal structure (cubic phase) even at room temperature,” he says. The nanocrystals were found to be stable from —196 degree C to about 200 degree C.

“By reducing the size of material to nanometer range, the surface to volume ratio increases tremendously. As a result, high surface energy comes into play and makes the high-temperature cubic phase crystal structure stable even at room temperature,” he says.

The researchers assembled the nanocrystals as a thin film. The thin film was used for making both solar cells and red LEDs. Solar cells made using the nanocrystal thin film has 10.77 per cent efficiency to convert sunlight to electricity and produce a high voltage of 1.23 volts.

‘More energy required’

“Generally, more electrical energy is required to get low energy emission in LEDs. But less electrical energy [voltage] was sufficient to produce red light in LEDs made using our method,” Mr. Swarnkar says.

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/indian-researcher-produces-stable-solar-cells/article9205006.ece

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