A solar cell and battery have been combined to create a single hybrid device.
Researchers at Ohio State have reported in the October 3, 2014 issue of the journal Nature Communication that they have succeeded in creating a solar battery, a patent-pending device that combines a battery and solar cell and runs on light and oxygen.
The new solar energy device can help lower the cost of renewable power.
Part of what makes the device so innovative is it has a mesh solar panel that enables air to enter the battery. It also is equipped with a unique process that allows for the transferring of electrons between the battery electrode and the solar panel. Light and air enables diverse parts of the chemical reactions that are responsible for charging the battery.
According to Yiying Wu, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State, “The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy,” Wu added that “We’ve integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost.” It is the belief of Yu and his students that the device they have created could reduce costs by 25%. The university intends to license the device to industry.
The solar battery invention will make solar energy more efficient.
The device eliminates the loss of electricity that typically results when electrons are required to travel from a solar cell to an external battery. Usually, the battery only receives 80% of electrons that emerge from a solar cell. However, with the new invention, light is converted to electrons within the battery. This makes it so that almost 100% of the electrons are recovered, which helps to solve an ongoing problem in solar power efficiency.
Wu explained that “Basically, it’s a breathing battery.” When it discharges the device breathes in air and when it charges is breathes out.
The project will continue as researches look for ways to enhance the performance of the solar battery with new materials. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.