Common dyes could create solar cells

June 30, 2010 at 3:13 PM

ITHACA, N.Y., June 30 (UPI) -- Cheaper, flexible and versatile solar cells could be made utilizing a molecule found in dyes used to color blue jeans and pen ink, U.S. researchers say.

Current heavy silicon-based panel are effective but are costly and often heavy, leading scientists to look for other alternatives, a Cornell University release said Tuesday.

Two Cornell chemists have discovered that organic dye molecules could be assembled into a structure known as a covalent organic framework to help create thin, flexible and low-cost photovoltaic devices, the release said.

William Dichtel and Eric L. Spitler used an acid catalyst and stable molecules called protected catechols to bring organic molecules together into two-dimensional sheets that were stacked together to create a lattice.

At the core of the framework are molecules called phthalocyanines, a class of common industrial dyes used in products from blue jeans to ink pens.

The structure by itself is not a solar cell, the researchers say, but once the framework is assembled, the pores between the molecular latticework could be filled with another organic material to form a light, flexible, highly efficient and easy-to-manufacture solar cell.

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