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Dye Sensitized Solar Cell: A Cheaper Alternative

Veena Parthan

With limiting resources of non-renewable energy comes the need to find an

alternative form of energy that would meet the demands of the worlds growing
population. Solar energy appears to be a promising solution for this problem.
Solar energy can be extracted using photovoltaic cells and they are available in
numerous varieties. The Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell (DSSC) is a type of
photovoltaic cell which is economically viable and easy to construct. These
DSSCs are being used in the research of Artificial Photosynthesis in University of
California, Berkeley.
A typical DSSC consist of a cathode, an anode and an electrolyte. The cathode is
a platinum metal coated with a layer of iodide electrolyte and a glass plate
coated with fluoride doped tin dioxide acts as the anode. A thin layer of Titanium
Dioxide is spread over the back end of the transparent glass plate to provide
large surface area for increased absorption. It absorbs photons mostly from the
UV rays. The glass plate is then dipped in a molecular sensitizer Ruthenium
Polypyridine dye and a solvent.
The working of DSSC is different from typical semiconductors (where Silicon
performs both the functions of charge collection as well as electric field
formation). In DSSC, the tasks are divided; the light absorption process is carried
out by the sensitizer and the charge is separated at the interface. The charge
separation is initiated by the photo-induced electrons from the dye to the charge
collector. The electrons move to the anode by diffusion. The dye molecule tries to
regain the electron from the electrolyte as a result of which the TiO2 oxides to triiodide. The electrolyte helps in completing the circuit as the dye regains the lost
electrons or else the dye molecule would decompose.
The limitation that restricts the DSSC from being used in the industry is its low
efficiency. The efficiency for a basic type of DSSC accounts to about 11% and an
efficiency of around 15% is recorded for its proto-types. The rate of photon
absorption is the major hindrance in the development of these types of cells, as
TiO2 absorbs only certain parts of the light spectrum. Further, the electrolyte
being a liquid faces thermo-stability problems. Once these problem are sorted
out, DSSCs can be used effectively to capture solar energy at low cost and can
be commercialized.