The State of Dye Sensitized Cell (DSE) Technology

Therehas been a lot of talk of late about the development of flexiblethird-generation thin-film solar technology, especially dye sensitizedcells (DSCs).

The question most people ask is: Where is the technologyat today? Well surprise, surprise, it will become commerciallyavailable by the end of 2009.

The new kid on the block is U.K.-based G24i,which uses technology licensed by Konarka Technologies and EcolePolytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). The company is a leadingdeveloper and supplier of DSCs, and just announced its first commercialshipment of its low-cost roll-to-roll produced DSC modules to, MascotteIndustrial Associates, a Hong Kong-based firm that makes bags andaccessories for consumer electronics. Solar DSC-powered bags shouldbecome available in the marketplace during December, in time for theholiday season. This is the first of several commercial partnerships asG24i builds its manufacturing to mass production levels for severalmarkets including consumer electronics (clothing and tents) andbuilding-integrated photovoltaics (awnings and windows). Currently thecompany’s manufacturing plant has a production capacity of 20megawatts, which it will expand to 45-megawatt capacity during2009/2010. Its flexible solar modules produce 0.5 watts power (>12percent efficiency). Until now, G24i has been using dyes supplied byDyesol Technologies.

I spoke with DSC’s inventor Michael Gratzel, a chemistry professor at EPFL in Switzerland, after G24i announcedthat it had shipped the first commercial application of DSC. He said itwas "one of the happiest days of his life, finally seeing endless [16]years of efforts and struggles coming to fruition." 

Another exciting development involves Dyesol Technologies.The leading Australian DSC material developer and supplier recentlyteamed up with Merck KGaA, which is a well-known German chemical giantwith its foot placed firmly in the PV and printed electronics domains.Merck should be able to "iron out" the stabilityand decomposition issues associated with electrolytes by incorporatingits novel ionic liquids into dye-sensitized cells, and also help speedup the commercialization process. On the sales front, Dyesol is workingwith Sigma-Aldrich – a global chemical material supply company – tomake its range of DSC dyes and materials available to the manycommercial and academic DSC developers in this emerging field. Thisonly adds to Dyesol’s ever-growing list of achievements both in termsof setting up a global manufacturing infrastructure (in the U.K.,Italy, Turkey, Korea, U.S. and Taiwan), lining up commercial clients(notably G24i and Corus Colors) and enhancing cell performance, whichis currently at more than 12 percent, with stability in excess of20,000 hours. GTM Research and NREL believe that this technology is oncourse to reach module efficiencies in excess of 10 percent andstabilities of five years by 2012.

Efficiency Roadmap for Dye-Sensitized Solar Technologies (1990–2009)

Dyesol is certainly covering all the bases. Other companies – such as 3G Solar, Pecell Technologies, Solaronix and SolarPrint –are expected to follow next year (see Selected DSC Developers below).It seems highly likely that DSC technology will be able to compete withother thin-film solar technologies such as amorphous silicon andcadmium telluride, especially if efficiency, cost and durabilitylimitations continue to improve.

Selected DSC Developers

Many more commercial and technological developments are discussed in Philip Drachman’s latest report from GTM research: Third-Gen Thin-Film Solar Technologies: Forecasting the Future of Dye-Sensitized and Organic PV.

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