3D graphene to substitute platinum in solar cells

Researchers have discovered a cost-effective solution to replacing expensive platinum in solar cells

Regular graphene is a famously two-dimensional form of carbon just a molecule or so thick (Pic: Dennis Schroeder/NREL)


Solar cells could be constructed at far lower costs by substituting platinum for graphene, scientists say.

A team at Michigan Technology University have has developed a ‘3D honeycomb’ with graphene which they say can replace the platinum in solar cells without degrading their efficiency.

The cell with the 3D graphene counter electrode converted 7.8% of the sun’s energy into electricity, nearly as much as the conventional solar cell using costly platinum (8%).

Synthesising the graphene is neither expensive nor difficult, said researcher Yun Hang Hu, and making it into a counter electrode posed no extraordinary challenges.

The researchers determined that it had excellent conductivity and high catalytic activity, raising the possibility that it could be used for energy storage and conversion.

Platinum is used to convert sunlight into electricity, but it is an expensive and rare metal in high demand around the world, costing US$1,500 an ounce.

The development of storage systems in conjunction with low-cost solar cells is critical to the widespread deployment of wind and solar systems.

Last month Australian scientists developed a graphene-based energy storage device capable of lasting as long as a conventional battery which can be used not only to store renewable energy but also portable electronic equipment and electric vehicles.

Scientists and researchers are rushing to find applications for the one-atom thick carbon sheets discovered by Nobel prize winning physicists at Manchester University.

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