Washington, May 18 : Chemistry students at Rowan University in the US are developing a process by which dye from fruits can be used to create solar cells which will capture the energy of the Sun.
The students include John Manganaro, Dave Lawrence, Anthony Antonelli, and Bill Green.
The team plans to use dyes from fruits like blackberries, blueberries, oranges and grapes to create the solar cells, under guidance of Dr. Darius Kuciauskas, an assistant professor of chemistry at Rowan University.
Currently, commercially available solar cells are efficient and robust but expensive, according to the team.
"To develop efficient, and most importantly, inexpensive solar cells, scientists are following the design of photosynthetic systems," said Dr. Kuciauskas. "Research on so-called 'third-generation' solar cells is being carried out at Rowan University," he added.
The Rowan researchers are working to refine a process in which they extract dye from a range of fruit and blend it into a kind of scientific "smoothie."
They separate out the heavy particles using filters and a centrifuge to obtain a liquid, which they freeze dry. The process leaves the researchers with sugar and a dye. They separate the components and obtain pure, brightly colored dyes in an acidic solution.
From there, they place the dye on a conductive glass coated with a porous film of titanium dioxide, a material found in everything from toothpaste to sandwich cookies to white paint, which bonds the dye to the glass.
Finally, they add iodine and potassium iodide electrolyte for dye regeneration.
When light hits the processed fruit dye on the glass, it "excites" the electrons, which mobilizes or "frees" them. The electrons then travel to a conductive glass electrode, which, in turn, produces electricity.
According to Green, though there is less output from these organic solar cells than a traditional silicon cell, the production from fruit is quite cheap.
"Construction of the cells is so simple and inexpensive that anyone can build his or her own given fruit, white paint, iodine and glass," said Antonelli.