Viral Solar Cells

Viral Solar Cells

Author: ChemistryViews

In a solar cell, sunlight hits a light-harvesting material, causing it to release electrons and produce an electric current. Carbon nanotubes can enhance electron collection from a solar cell’s surface but they tend to aggregate, which reduces their efficiency.

Angela Belcher and colleagues, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, have found that by using a genetically engineered version of the M13 virus, which usually infects bacteria, they can create a template for the self-assembly of carbon nanotube–TiO2 nanocomposites. The viruses reduce aggregation and improve the water-solubility of the nanotubes, making processing easier. The viruses can also be triggered to produce a TiO2 coating on the surface of the virus/nanotube complex. The coating gives better contact between the TiO2 nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes leading to improved transport of electrons.

With this approach, the power conversion efficiency of dye-sensitized solar cells was improved from 8 % to 10.6 %.

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