A team of researchers from the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and the Costa Rican Technological Institute (ITCR) has won the 2009 Contribution to Quality and Excellence Award and a $25,000 cash prize from the Florida Ice and Farm Company for developing a more efficient solar energy cell, the UCR announced on Tuesday.
The team’s project, titled Solar Cells that Contain Sensitive Dye for the Production of Electric Energy, uses a titanium dioxide cell with a ruthenium dye base to absorb a greater amount of the electromagnetic spectrum than the solar cells that presently exist.
To date, cells in solar panels typically have been made with polymorphic silicone, which has a lower output than the dye-based method that the UCR-ITCR team has created. Silicone also requires a costly purification process, increasing the price of solar panels and discouraging people from purchasing them.
The researchers’ proposal is to replace the silicone with the ruthenium dye base, which would increase solar panel efficiency and bring down the up-front costs of producing solar energy.
“The titanium dioxide (cell) has a much lower price than silicon and it is much more accessible,” said Leslie Pineda, a researcher at the UCR’s School of Chemistry.
The project was initially funded by the National Council of University Rectors.