How the Sea could hold the key to cheaper solar powerThursday 16 November 2017
Diatoms – tiny algae that are found naturally throughout our oceans – demonstrate an extraordinary ability to trap and scatter light. Now, boffins at Yale believe they can harness that ability to produce a low-cost alternative to conventional solar technologies.
The quest for organic photovoltaics has to date been held up by the complications around gathering and converting solar energy in a cost-effective way. Diatoms have naturally evolved to possess the ideal nanostructures to make this possible. What’s more, they are all around us in abundance as they are the most common phytoplankton in nature. So the “jewels of the sea”, as they are known, offer a cheap and readily-available solution to a hitherto insurmountable nano-design problem.
Scientists have so far been working with fossilized diatoms and simply grinding them to be small enough to use in the active layer of the solar cell. The results have been very promising, and the team believe that even better results are likely with further adjustments.