Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

May 06

Affordable Solar Power with Purple Pokeberries?

Posted in Biofuels | Photovoltaic Cells | Solar Power

Purple Pokeberries Researchers at Wake Forest University’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials are trying to achieve source of clean and green power through pokeberries! Pokeberries could be helpful in making solar power accessible to many. Nanotech Center scientists have extracted the red dye from pokeberries to paint their efficient and low-cost fiber-based solar cells. The dye acted in a desirable manner. It acts as an absorber, helping the cell’s minute fibers entrap more sunlight to convert into power.

The good news is pokeberries grows in rocky infertile soil and even during draught period. Even rural Africans can grow it in their existing climate. David Carroll, Ph.D.and the center’s director thinks that dye absorbers can help Africans fight power problems. Carroll emphasizes his point, “They’re weeds. They grow on every continent but Antarctica.”

Wake Forest University had patented the fiber-based photovoltaic, or solar, cells. The patent is granted by the European Patent Office. FiberCell Inc. has received the license to build up manufacturing processes for the new solar cell.

If this project attains success these fiber cells can create twice the power that existing flat-cell expertise can produce. Why? The answer is these cells are composed of millions of tiny, plastic “cans.” These cans catch light until most of it is absorbed. Another great advantage is the fibers have much more surface area. This will help the fiber solar cells to trap light at any angle. This phenomenon can take place from dusk till dawn.

How these solar cells are prepared? Firstly, the plastic fibers are stamped onto plastic sheets. This stamping utilizes the same technology that is used in attaching the tops of soft-drink cans. The second step is spraying of an absorber ( a polymer) or a cheap dye. Another advantage of the plastic cells is they are light in weight and flexible as well. Transporting this solar device to another continent would be easy.

After reaching the desired destination, these solar cells can be sprayed with the dye to enhance its efficiency. Carroll comes out with certain figures. According to him, it would cost around $5 million to install a finishing plant. It would still be $15 million less than it could cost to set up a similar plant for flat cells. He says, “We could provide the substrate. If Africa grows the pokeberries, they could take it home.”

He points out the benefits, “It’s a low-cost solar cell that can be made to work with local, low-cost agricultural crops like pokeberries and with a means of production that emerging economies can afford.”

  • B R Mumba, Sr.

    This is great news, I am in the process of setting up an energy company in Zambia, Africa and I would like have more details about this prospect. I also own some substantial piece of land there and we get into a Joint Venture to see how we can collaborate on this from production of pokeberries to actual project implementation.

    I would like this to be tried in Zambia first especially that the nation currently has a huge power shortage due to increase electricity consumption from the newly minted mines such as Lumwana.

    Please send more information on this as soon as possible … brmumba[AT]

  • greenorbz

    To manufacture these highly-efficient ‘hybrid’ cells, the plastic fibers are stamped onto plastic sheets and the absorber dye (this is where cheap and locally-grown pokeberries come in) is sprayed on. The sheets are flexible, which means that manufacturers can make them and ship them at a low cost to developing countries. Once there, local factories can spray the absorbent pokeberry dye on the cells.

  • Darian L. Smith

    Go Wake Forest.
    Good to hear my alma mater is working for the common good. That concept seems to have been lost, but is coming back strong.
    Let’s hope this is the breakthrough the world needs.

  • Richard Fletcher

    I agree that this process can be great for the US as well as developing countries. Let’s just hope this process pans-out!

  • styke

    As I read on this, it seems the “absorber dye” goes between the Lithium Flouride:Aluminum layer and the ITO:PEDOT layer, which sits closest to the glass fiber layer. Very mysterious. Obviously the aluminum forms an electrical conductor which can be as one terminal, where is the other terminal?

    And this seems very unlike a case of manufacture without pokeberry juice then spray some on.

    Greenorbz, are you involved in the project? Could you explain how this is hooked up, where the pokeberry juice goes, and what kind of facilities are going to be needed to do that?

  • Jay

    This reminds me of butterfly project (I watched this program on Discovery Channel in Cable TV). There is a limit to the size of electronic equipment made due to physical characteristics of electrons. If one could utilize photons instead of electrons, then electronic devices could shrink in size even more.

    Butterfly wings have perfect template for photonic crystals to make the scientists to investigate their property in respect to solar panel manufacturing.


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