Merck leads high-efficiency dye-sensitized solar cell development project

March 27, 2016 // By PAUL BUCKLEY
An international consortium has formed with the aim of developing large-area high-efficiency cobalt-based dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) using innovative material concepts.

he COBRA (organic cobalt-based low-cost printable large-area photovoltaics) project will run for three years and cost a total of around EUR 3 million. The consortium leader for the project is Merck. Also participating in the research project together with 3GSolar Photovoltaics from Jerusalem, Israel, is Colour Synthesis Solutions Ltd. (CSS) from Manchester, United Kingdom.

The project is sponsored by the Office of the Chief Scientist in Israel (OCS) and the parallel funding agencies of Germany (BMBF) and the UK (TSB).

The partners in the project are pursuing the goal of increasing the efficiency and stability of dye-sensitized solar cells which is to be achieved, among others, by using a new cobalt-based redox system in a non-volatile electrolyte of the cell. The large-area dye-sensitized solar cells being developed are to have a projected lifetime of more than 20 years. The technology will offer an economically attractive alternative in parallel to the photovoltaic technologies already established today.

Merck is contributing to the COBRA project by developing high-performance cobalt-based electrolyte solutions. During the course of several generations, the electrolyte is precisely tailored to the dyes developed by CSS. The subproject of 3GSolar focuses on optimizing the electrodes and the configuration of the dye-sensitized solar cells. This ensures harmonious interaction of all materials used, which is essential to the overall performance of dye-sensitized solar cells.

DSSCs generally convert light over a wide range of intensity into electricity. In both diffuse light and direct sunlight, electricity can be generated without compromising on performance even at elevated temperatures.  As their light transmittance can be flexibly adjusted, they are ideally suitable for use in building façades and can contribute, for example, to supplying energy to office buildings.  Further applications for indoor use include mobile charging stations for small electronic devices as well as power supply units for sensors (for measuring temperature, air humidity, etc.) and for electronic, wireless price displays in the wholesale and retail sector.