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How the Sea could hold the key to cheaper solar power

Thursday 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.

Sources:

  1. PhysOrg:
    Enhancing solar power with diatoms.

  2. Yale News:
    Enhancing solar power with “jewels of the sea”.

Label:

Light News

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Comments

  • Lesley Rickard
    12 May 2018

    Would it be possible to factory farm diatoms and have them as a living layer in a photovoltaic cell?

    Serious Readers reply:

    Thank you for your interest Lesley. Your question is a good one, but unfortunately not one that we are qualified to answer. We are experts in the field of lighting, and our blogs simply curate news about sight and light from sources worldwide which we feel will be of interest to our customers. The study in question is being carried out at Yale University in their Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering. For further information, the author of the study is Lyndsey McMillon-Brown, a Ph.D. student, who can be contacted by email at lyndsey.mcmillon@yale.edu

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