Some New Zealand researchers have created a dye for solar power generation that mimics photosynthesis in plants. The dye is cheaper to use than standard photovoltaic solar panels.
Dr Wayne Campbell and researchers from the Nanomaterials Research Centre at Massey University in New Zealand have developed a range of coloured dyes for use in dye-sensitized solar cells. Synthetic dyes solar cells that can be used to generate electricity at one tenth of the cost of current silicon-based solar panels.
The synthetic dyes are made from simple organic compounds closely related to those found in nature. The green dye Dr Campbell is synthetic chlorophyll derived from the light-harvesting pigment plants use for photosynthesis. Other dyes being tested in the cells are based on hemoglobin, the compound that give blood its color and blue derived from blueberries. Apparently, dark-colored berries outperform most other plant species when it comes to spectral absorption of sunlight.
From the linked article:
Solar cell technology developed by the University’s Nanomaterials Research Centre will enable New Zealanders to generate electricity from sunlight at a 10th of the cost of current silicon-based photo-electric solar cells.
Dr Campbell says that unlike the silicon-based solar cells currently on the market, the 10x10cm green demonstration cells generate enough electricity to run a small fan in low-light conditions – making them ideal for cloudy climates. The dyes can also be incorporated into tinted windows that trap to generate electricity.