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Diatom-A New Way to Breakthrough in Solar Cell Technology

author:管理员 Publication time:2019-07-30 09:00:58 Read: 9 second

Diatoms, a kind of silicon algae plant that proliferates very rapidly, their amorphous silica shells and unique three-dimensional structure can enable light to carry out sufficient photosynthesis in cells.  Before human beings invented silicon-based solar cells, diatoms in nature had already begun to use silica to collect solar energy.  In recent years, many researchers at home and abroad hope to use the optical characteristics of diatoms to promote the breakthrough of solar energy technology.

The special structure of diatoms plays an important role.

Algae have 200 gates and more than 100,000 species. Most of them live in seawater and can use solar energy for photosynthesis.  Algae are the most successful and efficient organisms in the world, which can reflect less sunlight and capture solar energy through grid pores.
The biggest secret for algae to use sunlight efficiently lies in its shell, of which the shell of unicellular diatom is the best model.  Diatom shells are hexagonal micropores of 10-50nm composed of extremely complex and precise silicon dioxide arranged to form a silk network structure. The complex structure can prevent incident light from escaping. The densely decorated algal shells not only enhance the hardness and strength of diatoms, make them have mechanical properties that can be suspended, but also improve their physiological functions of transporting nutrient substances, adsorption and attachment, prevent harmful substances from entering and enhance light absorption rate.
Researchers have found natural photonic crystal effect in many biological materials with graded porous structure. Diatom's special structure makes it a good photonic crystal, which can greatly improve the light capture efficiency. This feature makes diatom play an important role in solar cells.

Diatom natural material reduces cost

Diatoms, a tiny organism, are of unique value to the design of organic solar cells, which are cheaper than traditional solar technologies.  Because one of the challenges in designing these batteries is that they require very thin active layers (only 100 to 300 nanometers), which limits their efficiency in converting light energy into electrical energy.
The solution to this problem is to embed nanostructures capable of absorbing and dispersing light to improve the absorption level, but this is too expensive for mass production.  And this is exactly where diatoms can work.  After billions of years of adaptive evolution, they have optimized their ability to absorb light as much as possible.  And they are the most common phytoplankton in nature, which means they are very cheap.  Diatoms are very common in oceans and fresh water all over the world, so their cost is very low, so they are ideal choices for improving photovoltaic power generation.

Diatoms Effectively Improve Energy Conversion Efficiency

The construction of algae shells using sunlight is the best donor for future solar cell raw materials and model construction.  Organic photovoltaic solar cells have active layers made of organic polymers, which means that they are cheaper than conventional solar cells, but their conversion efficiency is not too high, mainly because their active layers are very thin and usually need to be less than 300 nanometers, which limits the conversion efficiency.
However, by using the optical characteristics of diatoms, the energy conversion efficiency is 1.3-1.4 times of the original conversion efficiency after diatoms are added to the titanium dioxide thin layer of dye-sensitized solar cells (low-cost nano titanium dioxide and photosensitive dyes are used as main raw materials to simulate plants in nature to utilize solar energy for photosynthesis and convert solar energy into electric energy) (while the energy conversion efficiency after diatoms are added to titanium dioxide for sintering to form a battery anode increases the light capture and scattering performance in the battery. The conversion efficiency of traditional titanium dioxide coating for three times is 3.8%, and the titanium dioxide conversion efficiency after diatoms are added to the diatoms shell can reach 5.26%).

Diatoms are an undeveloped treasure for human beings. Apart from effectively breaking through the current energy conversion efficiency in solar photovoltaic materials, diatoms also have the same important application in other fields.  For example, polysaccharides, proteins, pigments, oils and fats produced by diatom cell metabolism have great development prospects in food, medicine, genetic engineering, liquid fuels and other fields.
Micro-nano silica produced by diatom shells is a unique bio-inorganic material with extremely high purity in nature, and is also the best micro-nano biological platform material. Of course diatoms can absorb carbon dioxide and release a large amount of oxygen during the cultivation process, making great contribution to the environment.

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