A new chemical developed by researchers at West Virginia University is lighting the way for renewable energy.
The compound is a photosensitizer, which means it promotes chemical reactions in the presence of light. It has several potential applications for improving the efficiency of modern technologies starting from electricity-producing solar panels to mobile phones.
The research, featured on March 16 in Nature Chemistry, was carried out by chemists in Assistant Professor of Chemistry Carsten Milsmann’s lab with support from his National Science Foundation.
These technologies, at the moment, depending on precious metals, like iridium and ruthenium, to function. Nevertheless, only limited supplies of those materials stay on the planet, making them nonrenewable, difficult to access, and costly.
Milsmann’s compound is developed from zirconium, which is much more abundant and simpler to access, making it a more sustainable and cost-effective alternative. The compound is also steady in a variety of situations, such as air, water, and modifications in temperature, making it easier to work with in a variety of settings.
Since the compound can transform light into electrical energy, it could be used in the generation of more efficient solar panels.
Photovoltaic panels are often made using silicon and require a minimum threshold of light to gather and store energy. Rather than using silicon, researchers have long been exploring the alternative of dye-sensitized units, through which colored molecules accumulate light and operate in low-light conditions.