Expensive platinum is a key ingredient when manufacturing solar cells but researchers believe that 3-D graphene may be a suitable substitute.
Platinum is used in minute quantities when manufacturing solar cells, but at over $1,500 per ounce, it is still a substantial cost. According to Michigan Tech News, researchers may be able to use graphene instead.
Yun Hang Hu, a professor at the Michigan Technological University, and his team combined lithium oxide with carbon monoxide in a chemical reaction that forms lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) and the honeycomb graphene.
The new material fit the bill:
The researchers determined that the 3D honeycomb graphene had excellent conductivity and high catalytic activity, raising the possibility that it could be used for energy storage and conversion. So they replaced the platinum counter electrode in a dye-sensitized solar cell with one made of the 3D honeycomb graphene. Then they put the solar cell in the sunshine and measured its output.
The cell with the 3D graphene counter electrode converted 7.8 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity, nearly as much as the conventional solar cell using costly platinum (8 percent).
Synthesizing the 3D honeycomb graphene is neither expensive nor difficult, said Hu, and making it into a counter electrode posed no special challenges.
Creative Commons image by Ho John Lee