Researchers have developed a novel process to improve the performance of third generation solar cells. Working with dye sensitised solar cells, they have shown that the incorporation of magnetic nanoparticles in the anode can enhance light-to-power conversion efficiencies. Their most recent work has been published in the journal Solar Energy, a peer-reviewed journal.

There is much promise for dye sensitised solar cells because of costs and the possible environmental benefits and it is expected that with improvements in performance, DSSCs could outdo mature silicon-based solar cells. The worldwide DSSC market is projected to reach US $60 million by 2023, but such a market can be tapped only with efficiency improvements. Research like this, which is headed by the Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad, can contribute towards global efforts to bring DSSCs into real-life applications.

The research is being led by Jammalamadaka Suryanarayana, associate professor, magnetic materials and device physics laboratory, department of physics, IIT-Hyderabad, with his student Kannan UM in collaboration with L Giribabu, senior scientist, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad.

Speaking about his research, Suryanarayana said, “Photovoltaic or solar cell technology has been around since the19th century and we are now seeing the third generation of cells. The firstgeneration silicon-based cells, with energy harvesting efficiency of about 26 per cent, continues to be costly. Secondgeneration thin film solar cells based on semiconductors have comparable efficiencies, and not much lower costs. The third generation DSSCs can significantly lower costs of solar cells while being environmentally friendlier than earlier generations, but their efficiencies need improvement to translate to practical products.”

The efficiency of these cells, also known in the scientific community as the Grätzel cell, after its inventor Michael Grätzel, continues to hover around 13 per cent and there is considerable research all over the world to improve its performance.