New solar cells developed by Massey University don't need direct sunlight to operate and use a patented range of dyes that can be impregnated in roofs, window glass and eventually even clothing to produce power.
Researchers at the centre have developed a range of synthetic dyes from simple organic compounds closely related to those found in nature, where light-harvesting pigments are used by plants for photosynthesis.
"This is a proof-of-concept cell," said researcher Wayne Campbell, pointing to a desktop demonstration model. "Within two to three years we will have developed a prototype for real applications. The key to everything is the ability of the synthetic dyes to pass on the energy that reaches them - something that mere coloured water could not do.
"This particular technology does not require the large infrastructure required for silicon chips and the like," said Professor Partridge. It lends itself to being taken up by local and New Zealand industries. Professor Partridge said the next step was to take the dyes and incorporate them in roofing materials, tinted window glass and wall panels where they could generate electricity for home owners.
The aim was to develop a solar cell that could convert as much sunlight as possible to electricity. "The energy that reaches Earth from sunlight in one hour is more than that used by all human activities in one year."
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