ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: September 09, 2015

Hybrid solar cell converts both light and heat from sun’s rays into electricity (video)

"Photothermally-Activated Pyroelectric Polymer Films for Harvesting of Solar Heat with a Hybrid Energy Cell Structure"
ACS Nano

Scientists have developed a new hybrid, solar-energy system that harnesses the full spectrum of the sun’s radiation by pairing a photovoltaic cell with polymer films. The films convert the light that goes unused by the solar cell into heat and then converts the heat into electricity. They report on their device, which produces a voltage more than five times higher than other hybrid systems, in the journal ACS Nano.

Solar cells today are getting better at converting sunlight to electricity, but commercial panels still harvest only part of the radiation they’re exposed to. Scientists are working to change this using various methods. One approach is to hybridize solar cells with different materials to capture more of the sun’s energy. Eunkyoung Kim and colleagues turned to a clear, conductive polymer known as PEDOT to try to accomplish this.

The researchers layered a dye-sensitized solar cell on top of a PEDOT film, which heats up in response to light. Below that, they added a pyroelectric thin film and a thermoelectric device, both of which convert heat into electricity. The efficiency of all components working together was more than 20 percent higher than the solar cell alone. With that boost, the system could operate an LED lamp and an electrochromic display.

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Research Foundation of Korea, the Pioneer Research Center Program and the Active Polymer Center for Pattern Integration.

Watch a demonstration of the hybrid solar cell.

Youtube ID: z8E9cVEk5LQ

A display changes colors, powered solely by a new hybrid solar-energy device.
Credit: American Chemical Society
High-resolution image