- Silicon-based solar cells come with huge fabrication costs as silicon processing is very expensive
- Solar cells based on organic materials are inexpensive and easy to fabricate.
Scientists at IIT Hyderabad have developed low-cost, environment-friendly solar cells by employing an off-the-shelf dye used to make kumkum or vermilion in India.
The dye-sensitised solar cell (DSSC) is based on New Fuchsin (NF) dye with aqueous electrolyte and platinum-free counter electrodes, according to the research published in the Solar Energy journal.
DSSCs are generally considered eco-friendlier to produce than conventional solar cells because they require little energy to manufacture, said Professor Sai Santosh Kumar Raavi from Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad, who led the project.
The most familiar solar cells today are made up of silicon, however, this technology is limited by huge fabrication costs as silicon processing is very expensive.
Moreover, it involves very high temperature methods that leave a large carbon footprint, noted Raavi.
Cheaper and Safer Alternative
In order to get around the limitations of using silicon, the IIT Hyderabad team started working on solar cells based on organic materials, which were supposedly inexpensive and easy to fabricate.
In their latest work, Raavi’s team consisting of researchers from Department of Physics and Chemistry (IIT Hyderabad), ARCHEM (University of Hyderabad) NIT Kurukshetra and IFSC-USP, Brazil, employed a very cheap magenta-dye called New Fuchsin, which is used to make kumkum or vermillion when grounded with turmeric.
“It’s cheap, non-toxic and is soluble in water and importantly does not degrade in the presence of water,” Raavi said.
This technology using NF dye, researchers said, could be used to build integrating photovoltaics.
NF is an inexpensive dye available off-shelf in most supermarkets in India, and in its purest form costs USD two per gram.