26
April
2011
|
10:18 AM
America/Los_Angeles

How A Virus Can Boost Solar Power

Techeye reports on a breakthrough by researchers at MIT that could dramatically boost the efficiency of cheap solar cells by more than 25%.

Matthew Finnegan reports:

The team at the Massachusetts university found that a bacteria-infecting virus known as M13 is extremely useful in holding together carbon nanotubes in a way that enables them to be successfully used in the circuitry involved in manufacturing solar cell technology...

Professor Angela Belcher and her team were able to successfully incorporate the nanotubes with the TiO2 in a way that lead to a significant improvement in the efficiency of the transfer of light into electricity. The technique has meant that the power conversion efficiency has jumped from 8 percent to 10.6 percent, a significant improvement due to the addition of the virus.

Ms Belcher told TechEye: "Biology in this sense is very useful in grabbing things and putting them together at a molecular level."

The technique is applied to dye sensitized solar cells, which are cheap to make but don't have the same efficiency as expensive silicon photovoltaic cells. However, dye sensitized solar cells are becoming more widespread in certain parts of Asia.

If the virus-based technique can be transferred to the production line it would make a big difference in bringing down the cost of solar energy.

Read more here: Viruses can boost solar cell efficiency - Cause colds, hold carbon nanotubes in place | TechEye