Re-awakening the globe's very first solar cells for indoor photovoltaics applications

Dec 29, 2022 01:05 PM ET
  • The globe's initial solid-state photovoltaics were reported in 1883, and were made up of selenium, which at some point led to the growth of the present-day photovoltaics, although the wide bandgap of selenium was limiting for applications of sunlight harvesting.
Re-awakening the globe's very first solar cells for indoor photovoltaics applications
Image: Science Advances, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adc9923

In their present work published in Science Advances, Bin Yan and a team of researchers in chemistry, nanotechnology and also materials science in China, reviewed the concept of the globe's oldest photovoltaics material to define its role in indoor photovoltaics applications. The adsorption range of the material completely matched the discharge ranges of commonly made use of indoor source of lights. The scientists utilized selenium modules to produce an output power of 232.6 μW under indoor light illumination to power a radiofrequency identification-based localization tag.

The area of photovoltaics

In 1873, electrical designer Willoughby Smith first discovered the photoconductivity of selenium, and Charles Fritts constructed the initial solid-state solar cells thereafter in 1883 by sandwiching selenium in between a metal foil and a thin gold layer. The low preliminary power conversion efficiency of these early explorations, started research in the field of photovoltaics as well as inspired the emergence of solar cells in 1954, to lay the structure to the modern photovoltaic or pv sector.

Until recently, researchers had actually integrated indoor photovoltaics to convert indoor light into useful electric power for wireless devices such as sensing units, actuators, and also communication devices. In this work, Yan et al. showed the unique benefits of using selenium for indoor photovoltaics with its appropriately wide bandgap and intrinsic environmental stability. The group additionally developed selenium modules to generate an output power of 232.6 μW, to power an internet of things wireless device for radiofrequency identification-based localization.

Indoor photovoltaics

It is currently possible to power the "internet of things" devices by harvesting indoor light via indoor photovoltaics (IPV). The concept is a growing research study area, where a range of innovations including dye-sensitized solar cells and organic photovoltaics and lead-halide perovskite solar cells are checked out for their functionality.

Indoor light is typically created to fit human eye level of sensitivity, so deliberately its elements differ from traditional exterior photovoltaics. When the existing features of selenium were incorporated with its non-toxicity and outstanding stability, Yan et al. considered the material to be excellent for indoor photovoltaic or pv applications.

Optimizing the experiments for improved outcomes

The research study group adopted a superstrate configuration of glass/Fluorine-doped tin oxide with titanium oxide/tellurium/selenium as well as gold to develop the thin-film selenium solar cells. Throughout the process, they made use of environmentally-friendly titanium oxide to create the barrier layer, and created the non-toxic selenium-based devices to promote indoor light applications.

During the experiments, they examined the selenium solar cells under standard one-sun illumination and measured indoor solar performances of devices under indoor light at 1000 Lux, with a common LED source of light to simulate the environment of illumination. The outcomes likewise resulted in the optimization of the tellurium layer to help with dramatically different light intensities between indoor light as well as sunlight.

Indoor light could relatively only generate a fairly handful of providers therefore its really weak intensity. The group as a result improved the device to acquire a favorable photodoping impact to optimize the selenium solar cells under indoor light conditions. Yan et al. in addition integrated tellurium at the selenium/titanium oxide interface to give a strong bond for surface passivation.

Applications of the devices

The devices can be made use of to investigate a range of indoor lighting conditions typically required to light environments such as the living-room, the collection, or a brilliant supermarket. The selenium cells outperformed market-dominating silicon-based cells that are currently a sector criterion for indoor photovoltaics, about both power conversion efficiency and also stability.

Contrastingly, silicon-based cells only exhibited a power conversion efficiency below 10%, with fairly very little photostability. On account of these monitorings, the team thought about the selenium-based devices to be a much more attractive different prospect. They additionally studied the capacity of the selenium device to power the internet of things wireless devices.


By doing this, Bin Yan as well as colleagues reinterpreted selenium, the oldest existing photovoltaic material with the emergence of indoor photovoltaic devices, due to its unique capacity to offer a suitable wide bandgap for indoor light harvesting. The material is non-toxic and has intrinsic environmental stability as crucial features.

The researchers optimized the material composition to achieve a power conversion efficiency of 15%, matched for 1000 Lux indoor illumination with selenium cells. This outcome went beyond the existing efficiency of industrial silicon cells. The selenium devices carried out without deterioration, even after 1000 hours of continuous indoor lighting.

The outcomes of the research study highlight the scope of using selenium for indoor photovoltaics with added capacity to power the internet of things devices as an appealing element in photovoltaics.

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