Solar cells may be the cleanest energy source available, but they have one thing working against them, which is efficiency. Sure, there are some who have expanses of horizontal and vertical real-estate on which to put hundreds of square feet of solar cells, but they could be better.
If a 10%-efficiency solar array on the roof of your home can save you 10% on our utility bills, then we can imagine that a 100%-efficiency solar array could possibly eliminate our utility bill altogether. True, 100%-efficiency solar cells are pure theory, but there have been experiments proving solar efficiency as high as 44% and theoretical cells as high as 87%.
Dye-sensitized solar cells are not particularly efficient, but their thin-film liquid-electrolyte construction is a lot less expensive than traditional silicon-based solar cells. Black Dye, in the electrolyte, though, breaks down over time and especially temperature, which isn’t a great characteristic of something designed to be exposed to the sun, being a solar cell. In 2006, the most efficient of this type of solar cell was at 11%.
A new dye was recently developed by Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology that is much more durable than Black Dye, leading to two discoveries. First, a dye-sensitized solar cell using the new dye lost less than 10% of its efficiency after being exposed to 85% humidity and 185°F for 1,000 hours.
Second, the new formulation improves light absorption on the long-end of the spectrum, so the new cell has a higher solar efficiency. Dye-sensitized solar cells using the new dye are 11.9% efficient, which is also a new record.