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Originally published April 29 2011

Scientists create new 'organic' solar cells using thin layer of gold

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Recent breakthroughs in solar technology have potentially opened up the door to an inexpensive, widely available organic cell technology that uses gold instead of Indium Tin Oxide (ITO), which has long been used to coat the glass surfaces of solar electrodes. Researchers from the University of Warwick (UW) in the UK successfully figured out a way to deposit an ultra-thin layer of gold -- with a thickness of only eight-billionths of a meter -- into sheets of solar cell glass.

An excellent conductor, gold is a perfect option for use in organic solar cells. But previous research has been unable to successfully insert a thin enough layer of the metal into glass that would remain transparent, conductive, and stable. Dr. Ross Hatton and Professor Tim Jones from UW have come up with a viable solution that could revolutionize organic solar cell technology.

Though it may sound expensive, using gold in solar cells is actually cheaper than you might think. According to their report, the cost of the gold needed to fill a one-square-meter electrode is roughly seven US dollars -- even at current trading prices for gold. And once a solar cell has run its course, its gold can actually be recuperated and used in a new solar cell, rendering the entire process both affordable and sustainable.

The use of ITO, on the other hand, which has been the standard in organic solar cells for quite some time, pales in comparison to gold. Not only is gold more stable, but also it is more reliable than ITO. ITO tends to crack and break more easily than gold, and its indium component is very rare, making the substance far more expensive than gold.

"This new method of creating gold based transparent electrodes is potentially widely applicable for a variety of large area applications, particularly where stable, chemically well-defined, ultra-smooth platform electrodes are required, such as in organic optoelectronics and the emerging fields of nanoelectronics and nanophotonics," said Dr. Hatton.

Organic solar cell technology can also be integrated into many consumer applications as well, including in home or car windows. Even the windows covering buildings and skyscrapers could be transformed into energy-producing solar cells while still maintaining transparency and functionality.

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