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Solar-Coating Developer Recognized for Contribution to ‘Health of the Planet’

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

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The man credited with inventing the “dye-sensitized solar cell”—a photovoltaic technology that generates electricity from a type of coating—has been named the winner of the Albert Einstein World Award of Science for “outstanding accomplishments to the welfare of mankind and the health of the planet.”

 Professor Michael Grätzel


Professor Michael Grätzel, pioneering developer of dye-sensitized solar cell technology.

Professor Michael Grätzel, director of the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, will receive the 2012 Einstein Award of Science from the World Cultural Council. The council is a Mexico-based organization with a stated mission “to promote culture, values and goodwill throughout the world.”

The organization said Grätzel’s work marks a major milestone towards solving “arguably one of the most important technical problems relating to energy and sustainability that we face today, namely the development of the dye-sensitized solar cell, known as the DSC or Grätzel cell.”

 Image of titanium dioxide films loaded with electrolyte and dye.
 Image of titanium dioxide films loaded with electrolyte and dye.

The top executive of Dyesol Ltd., a Sydney, Australia-based company that says it is the “leading global supplier of DSC materials,” hailed the announcement as “not only a tremendous mark of respect for Professor Grätzel by the global scientif world,” but also an “overwhelming vote of confidence in Dyesol and the future of DSC applications.”

Dyesol Director Gordon Thompson added that the company has “strong ties to Professor Grätzel,” who is chairman of Dyesol’s Technology Advisory Board, and Dyesol is a pioneer licensee of the DSC technology developed at EPFL. Our team has been developing this invention to a range of commercial product solutions since 1994.”

Thompson said Dyesol “is at the cutting edge in the photovoltaic industry as the leading global supplier of DSC materials, technology and know-how to multinational manufacturing partners and researchers across the globe. Our DSC photovoltaic technology enables metal, glass and polymeric-based products in the building, transport and electronics sectors to generate energy and to improve energy efficiency.”

Dyesol describes its technology as “artificial photosynthesis” with the use of an electrolyte, a layer of titania (a pigment used in paint), and ruthenium dye deposited on glass, metal or polymer substrates. Light striking the dye “excites” electrons, which are absorbed by the titania to become an electric current.

The company said the technology offers a lower cost than conventional silicon-based photovoltaics, and is reported to produce electricity more efficiently even in low-light conditions. The company says the technology can be directly incorporated into buildings by replacing conventional glass panels or metal sheets.

Dyesol markets products used in dye-sensitized solar cells, including dyes, pastes, electrolytes, and substrates, and also offers proprietary testing and prototype manufacturing equipment.

More information: www.dyesol.com.

Grätzel’s work in developing DSC technology also brought him the 2010 Millennium Technology Grand Prize from the Technology Academy Finland. The academy’s president, Dr. Ainomaija Haarla, said Grätzel’s development of the technology “is likely to have an important role in low-cost, large-scale solutions for renewable energy.”

Major Commercialization Initiative

A significant recent development based on the DSC technology is a project aimed at integrating power generation into products used in walls, roofs and windows. That project, in which global building-materials giant Tata Steel and Dyesol are partners, last year moved into a “pre-industrialization phase”—a preliminary to commercialization of products using the technology.

 Tata Steel

 Tata Steel

Tata Steel and Dyesol Ltd. say the pilot project at Tata Steel’s Shotton site in North Wales has resulted in the development of the world’s largest dye-sensitized photovoltaic module, shown here.

Tata Steel said its plans include accelerating technical development and “establishing a product, process and supply chain that can be successfully commercialized.”

In a report in D+D News in June 2011, Tata Steel said the pilot program had resulted in the development of the world’s largest dye-sensitized photovoltaic module—more than 3 meters in length and approximately 1 square meter in area. The module was produced as a single length of steel on which a photovoltaic coating was applied.

The D+D story can be read at Project to Integrate Photovoltaics into Building Materials Surges Forward.

The Tata Steel photovoltaics program also was described in the D+D News story, Researchers in UK Charged up About Photovoltaic Coating Technology.


Tagged categories: Photocatalytic coatings; Photovoltaic coatings; Solar

Comment from Don Day, (3/16/2012, 8:56 AM)

Yea for the Aussies; Yea for the Prime Minister; I want to move there.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (3/19/2012, 9:08 AM)

It would be nice to know a couple more things about this technology: The actual conversion efficiency (how well it converts light into electricity) and a (projected) cost comparison to thin-film solar. Thin film already appears to be notably cheaper than "conventional silicon-based photovoltaic" and is in mass production. That said, this seems to be a neat technology. It will be interesting to see if it is viable in the marketplace.

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