Researchers at the University of California (UIC) have produced solar power by binding photosensitive dyes to common plastic membranes and adding water (Photo Credit: Steve Zylius / UCI)
- Research team at the University Of California bound photosensitive dyes to common plastic membranes and added water
- Striking it with laser light, laboratory simulation of sunlight, the dye releases ions
- Photoactive membranes then generate 60 millivolts and also climb up to more than 100 millivolts
- This research could be used to desalinate seawater or to even integrate living tissue and artificial circuitry, the researchers claim
Researchers at the University of California (UIC) have produced solar power by binding photosensitive dyes to common plastic membranes and adding water. This method produces electricity from the motion of ions, instead of being produced through electrons as is the practice currently.
The researchers call it the synthetic, light-driven proton pump, which has the potential capability of taking salt out of seawater.
When struck with light from a laser pointer, a laboratory simulation of sunlight, the dye releases ions. Positively charged protons, also known as cations, pass through one sheet, while negatively charged hydroxides, also known as anions, pass through the other. These photoactive membranes generate 60 millivolts, on average, occasionally climbing to more than 100 millivolts, as measured by Shane Ardo, a UCI Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.
The technology can be made with materials that can be ‘dirt-cheap’, he claimed. That’s what organic PV scientists often say about their technology – but reliability has been a problem that has prevented organic solar from reaching mass-production stage.
Apart from desalination of seawater, other possible applications of this technology may offer the prospect of integrating living tissue and artificial circuitry. While the scientists didn’t mention when this technology is ready for use, it seems this is far away.
“There had been other experiments dating back to the 1980s that photo-excited materials so as to pass an ionic current through them,” said the research paper’s Lead Author William White. “Theoretical studies said that those currents should be able to reach the same levels as their electronic analogs, but none of them worked all that well.”