Scientists at Ohio State University claim to have developed a hybrid device which combines a solar cell with a rechargeable battery, as part of a US Department of Energy (DoE) funded research programme.
The new device, which is expected to be licensed for industrial use, features a mesh solar PV panel, which allows air into the battery as well as integrating a process for the transfer of electrons from the solar panel to the battery electrode.
The Ohio State University team also says the battery element of the device stores almost 100% of the electrons generated by the photovoltaic cell. Typically, around 20% of the electrons are lost in the movement between the solar cell and the battery, but in the latest design, conversion of light to electrons happens within the battery.
Multi-disciplinary journal Nature Communications published findings from the team last week . Yiying Wu, supervisor on the project, previously worked on a high-efficiency air powered battery that won a US$100,000 prize for innovation in clean energy from the DoE in 2014. That battery, the KAir, was air-powered, allowing potassium to react with oxygen.
Yiying Wu told Ohio State University’s newsroom that the latest invention is in effect a “breathable battery”, combining the KAir’s technology with solar panels. Solar cells are usually made with solid semi-conductor materials, which prevent air from passing through.
“It breathes in air when it discharges, and breathes out when it charges,” he said.
According to Yiying Wu, the new device could help lower the cost of solar energy, perhaps by as much as 25%.
“The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy. We’ve integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost,” Wu said.