Could energy-producing windows one day replace traditional photovoltaic panels? A study by Laserlab at the University of Coimbra (UC) on third generation photovoltaic cells, which are more efficient and cost-effective when compared to current systems, takes a major step towards developing windows that directly transform sunlight into electricity. Recently published in the scientific journal Dalton Transactions, the paper has been considered a "HOT Article".
The aim of the FCT and Laserlab Europe-funded project, coordinated by Carlos Serpa and Hugh Burrows, is to assess the potential of certain platinum-based compounds to convert solar energy into electricity. The researchers applied the sensitive method of photoacoustic calorimetry (PAC) for the first time, showing that it is possible to determine the efficiency of electron transfer from compounds of platinum linked to organic molecules, to a semiconductor material. These findings are the basis for a rational use of solar energy to produce electricity.
The tested platinum-based compounds, as Carlos Serpa explains, "are potentially promising candidates for light-driven applications, as they show a strong capacity of absorption in the near-infrared spectrum of light. In other words, if we think of the colors of the rainbow, these platinum compounds are able to absorb most of these colors, and especially red, which is more difficult to absorb. This is an essential feature for the efficient conversion of sunlight into electricity."
However, as explained by the researcher, "the compound's life time in the state required for the conversion of light into electrical energy is very short, competing with the time of transfer of electrons to the electrical circuit. So, further studies are still needed, including changing the molecules surrounding the platinum atom, thus changing the properties of the compound to obtain the best conditions for the conversion of captured sunlight into electricity'.