The rush in the energy segment is about optimization of solar energy’s performance in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. Almost all energy harnessing devices like silicon photovoltaic panels, concentrated cells, dye-sensitized solar cells, thermodynamic solar plants, and others pursue one single goal – to generate maximum possible electrons from sunlight. These electrons can be then turned into power that can be used to turn on lights and power up your television, refrigerator, and others. The EPFL located Laboratory of Interfaces and Photonics recently developed dye solar cells that can iterate photosynthesis process of plants. The team also developed numerous methods for production of fossil fuels like hydrogen from solar water splitting.
In order to accomplish this, either they fuse electricity-generating cells and electrolytes to break up water molecules or use photo electrochemical cells that can split water directly into its basic components – hydrogen and oxygen. With the help of first technology, post doctoral students, Jingshan Luo and his team were finally able to gain a spectacular performance from these cells. The device developed by them is capable of convert 12.3 percent of energy released by Sun over perovskite absorbers. Perovskite absorbers are compounds that can be abstracted in lab from some common substances like the ones used in regular car batteries. This eliminates the requirement for rare-earth metals that are used in generation of usable hydrogen fuel.
The high efficiency of this device presents tough competition to several other techniques that are used in conversion of solar energy. The method carries numerous edges over their closest rivals. Jinghsan Luo also explains that, “Both the perovskite used in the cells and the nickel and iron catalysts making up the electrodes require resources that are abundant on Earth and that are also cheap. However, our electrodes work just as well as the expensive platinum-based models customarily used.”
Au contraire, the transformation of solar energy into hydrogen helps in storage solving the biggest problems associated with renewable energy. Michael Gratzel, the lead researcher also says, “Once you have hydrogen, you store it in a bottle and you can do with it whatever you want to, whenever you want it.”
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