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New Solar Cell Stores Electrical Energy

Researchers at Ohio State University in Columbia say a new type of solar cell can store electrical energy. The researchers have developed the first hybrid solar device, or solar battery, that stores energy. The new solar cell has the capability of capturing energy from the sun and is also capable of storing energy like a battery. The hybrid solar cell could lower costs of harvesting renewable energy from the sun. Researchers predict the new solar cell will save 25% in solar energy harvesting.

The new mesh solar panel is the key to the device’s success. The panel allows sunlight and air to enter into the solar cells. The research team has created a porous material that represents solid semiconductor materials. This material is typically used to make solar cells. Therefore, when light and oxygen enter the cell it starts a chemical reaction that normally occurs within a battery. However, this same reaction will now occur within the solar cell. 

Yiying Wu, a professor of chemistry at Ohio State, is the head researcher for the project. Wu said that the project uses a solar panel to capture the light and stores the energy in a cheap battery. The research team has integrated both functions of capturing and storing energy into their device. Wu went on to say that any time you can capture and store energy you’ll reduce costs. 

Wu believes that this new innovative device will not only reduce the cost of harvesting renewable energy but also help scientists. For many years, scientists have tried to store energy from the sun and not lose the energy they have harvested in the process. With solar energy today there is a loss of electricity from the solar cells. The cells release an electron from the cell’s semiconductor materials that travels outside each cell and into the battery. Therefore, only 80 percent of the electrons harvested by the solar cells are stored in batteries.

The new solar cell design will capture the solar energy and transfer 100 percent of the electrons to the battery. The transfer of energy is possible because the conversion of sunlight to electric current doesn’t take place inside the cells before it is transferred to the battery. Therefore, the battery is directly located inside the cell which prevents the electrons from escaping. 

The battery is made up of three electrodes or materials that conduct electricity. The mesh solar panel or a collection of solar cells is the first electrode. The second electrode is a thin sheet of porous carbon. The third electrode is a sheet of lithium metals. Between each of the three layers of electrode is an electrolyte that moves the charges back and forth. The battery electrode is connected to an external circuit that discharges lithium metal and porous carbon to produces energy. Therefore, the lithium ions travel to the carbon electrode and back from the lithium peroxide. The combined chemical process creates an electric current.

When the solar battery recharges, the light hits the mesh panel that generates electron-hole pairs. Afterwards the pairs carry an electrical charge. Wu believes the most important feature of the device uses added molecules. The redox shuttle additives transfer charges from the mesh solar panel to the lithium electrode. Therefore, it causes the lithium peroxide to decompose into oxygen and lithium ions. The cell releases oxygen, but the lithium ions and electrical charges are stored in the battery lithium electrode. Therefore, the battery is basically a breathing battery. Because the battery breathes in the air when it discharges and breathes out air when it charges.

Image: http://chemistry.osu.edu/faculty/wu

 

Ann Johnston

About Ann Johnston

Ann enjoys writing, reading, gardening, fishing and the great outdoors. Her job has allowed her to travel and live in different countries. She enjoys studying and learning about different cultures.

Ann Johnston

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