With the latest generation of home appliances becoming more connected and enabling the Internet of Things (IoT), dye-sensitized solar cells can finally fulfill their latent promise and help reduce the carbon footprint of billions of manufactured goods.
From pvglobal magazine
With solar PV becoming more and more popular, the world has gained a better understanding of how sunlight is converted into electricity. of solar arrays large enough for power entire cities to me Portable solar panels Dynamic enough to charge cell phones, companies are constantly exploring and expanding the boundaries of how light can be used to power everyday life in ever more sustainable ways.
Dye solar cells (DSSC) is a prime example. They were first developed in the late 1980s to mimic the natural absorption of light energy and convert any visible light — not just direct sunlight — into electrical energy. Despite the relatively low cost of production, the energy density of dye-sensitized cells was not competitive with conventional silicon solar technology, so DSSCs remained little more than a novelty for 30 years.
What was promising, however, was the performance of these devices in low-light conditions, such as indoors or in shaded outdoors, even if those early DSSCs did perform slightly better than Amorphous silicon Cells used in solar powered calculators. Fast forward to the present day, and tremendous advances in chemistry and design have made low-light solar cells more efficient and offer higher energy densities, opening up new market possibilities.
The timing couldn’t be better. community reliance on connected devices – And the The Internet of things It has led to the manufacture of billions of consumer electronics and sensors. This raises concerns about the impact of the Internet of Things on the environment, with the disposable batteries inside these devices contributing a great deal electronic waste And the carbon emissions. However, low-light cells show how the solar industry can lead a new field Carbon removal in such devices.
Low light power
Nearly half of IoT sensors are installed indoors, where variable low-light conditions are the norm. Photovoltaic technology such as amorphous silicon calculator cells do not produce enough power in realistic low-light operating conditions to power connected devices. At the same time, high-performance low-light photovoltaic technology, such as arsenic compound It came with a price tag that made it just right for space satellite and search applications, not mass market electronics.
Today’s low-light solar cells—including those developed by my company Ambient Photonics—can harvest energy from indirect and artificial light to create an endless power source for countless devices. Indoor lighting and outdoor low-light environments are generally more dynamic and darker than assumed. As a result, they require unprecedented power density to deliver reliable performance. Realizing high-power, dye-sensitized solar cells at competitive prices not only opens new sustainability opportunities for device manufacturers, but also opens doors to design possibilities that device engineers cannot achieve with disposable battery-powered devices.
Decarbonization of the supply chain
Rooftop solar It has become an effective and accessible solution for companies to offset emissions from their construction operations by generating electricity on site. While this effectively reduces what are known as “Scope 1” and “Scope 2” carbon emissions, there is still a disconnect between the placement of solar energy on the roof of the plant and the actual products being manufactured. inside Building. Re-examining how products are made in the supply chain, with its associated “Scope 3” emissions, the solar industry could provide more than just large-scale generation, it could become the power source for everyday life.
When it comes to electronic devices, for example, the logical change that manufacturers along the supply chain are making, which is taking advantage of the advantages of solar power, is to get rid of disposable batteries.
Consider the case of the remote control. German battery manufacturer Varta It is estimated that each AAA battery has an equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of 61g of CO22. Most remote controls require two AAA batteries that will last about a year, with average use. The average remote control has a lifespan of seven years, and it requires 14 batteries over that time.
According to the US Environmental Protection AgencyIn the United States alone, nearly three billion batteries are sold each year, at a rate of 32 per household, or 10 per person. The average consumer owns two button batteries and 10 A, AA, AAA, C, D, or 9-volt dry cell batteries, and puts out eight household batteries each year. Even in environmentally conscious California, only 0.55% of alkaline batteries are recycled.
Besides generating mountains of hazardous waste in landfill, battery production and disposal itself has a significant carbon footprint. By harvesting energy from everyday light, by using low-light solar cells to replace disposable batteries, manufacturers can meet electronic device sustainability goals more quickly — particularly by reducing scale 3 supply chain emissions.
Solar energy behind sunlight
Energy is a defining resource, as much of today’s modern world revolves around consumer electronic devices and equipment. In the next decade, there is potential for billions of wireless devices and sensors to enter the market. However, the challenge of operating these devices reliably, affordably, and sustainably continued to limit the viability of large-scale IoT.
Energy harvesting technology is a transformative, once-in-a-generation, world-changing advance, and low-light solar cells once again put the solar industry in a strong position to drive large-scale decarbonization.
About the author: Bates Marshall is the co-founder and CEO of California-based low-light solar cell manufacturer Ambient Photonics, which uses a novel industrial solar printing technology to laminate its proprietary chemistry onto thin, durable glass substrates.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those and views of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions espoused by him Photoelectricity Journal.
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