Solar cell made from trees
Although artificial solar cells are designed to emulate the natural process of photosynthesis, they could not be more materially different from the plant leaves they mimic. Typically made from silicon, plastic, and glass, conventional photovoltaic cells are energy-intensive to produce and difficult to disassemble and recycle.
Scientists at Georgia Tech’s Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology have developed a solar cell that more closely resembles the composition of tree leaves. The cell consists of two layers, both of which are derived from plant materials: an organic semiconductor and a transparent cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) substrate. The power conversion efficiency of the cell is just under 3 percent, which—although not yet competitive with the 10 percent levels of glass- or polymer-based cells—is unparalleled for cells made from renewable materials. Also, the device is easy to recycle at the end of its functional life: after the cell is immersed in water, the CNC substrate will dissolve, enabling easy separation of the cell’s components.
Contact: Georgia Tech Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology, Atlanta, GA, USA.
For more information, see Transmaterial Next: A Catalog of Materials that Redefine Our Future