(ADPnews) - Sep 28, 2010 - A team led by a North Carolina State University researcher has shown that water-gel-based solar devices, so called artificial leaves, can act like solar cells to produce electricity.
The artificial leaves also have the potential to be less expensive and more environment friendly than the current standard-bearer -- silicon-based solar cells, the North Carolina State University said last week.
The bendable devices are composed of water-based gel infused with light-sensitive molecules coupled with electrodes coated by carbon materials, such as carbon nanotubes or graphite. The light-sensitive molecules get excited by the sun’s rays to produce electricity, similar to plant molecules that get excited to synthesize sugars in order to grow, said NC State’s Orlin Velev, Invista Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Velev added that the researchers will now work to fine-tune the water-based photovoltaic devices, making them even more like real leaves.
“The next step is to mimic the self-regenerating mechanisms found in plants,” he said. “The other challenge is to change the water-based gel and light-sensitive molecules to improve the efficiency of the solar cells.”
Velev even imagines a future where roofs could be covered with soft sheets of similar electricity-generating artificial-leaf solar cells.