New energy cell can store up solar energy for release at night
A photoelectrochemical cell (PEC) is a special type of solar cell that gathers the Sun’s energy and transforms it into either electricity or chemical energy used to split water and produce hydrogen for use in fuel cells. In an advance that could help this clean energy source play a stronger role within the smart grid, researchers at the University of Texas, Arlington have found a way to store the electricity generated by a PEC cell for extended periods of time and allow electricity to be delivered around the clock.
Currently, the electricity generated by a PEC cell could not be stored effectively, as the electrons would quickly “disappear” into a lower-energy state. This meant that these cells were not a viable solution for a clean-energy grid, as the electricity had to be used very shortly after being produced. That is, on sunny days, at a time when standard PV panels would already be producing energy at full tilt.
Now, researchers Fuqiang Liu and colleagues have created a PEC cell that includes a specially designed photoelectrode (the component that converts incoming photons into electrons). Unlike previous designs, their hybrid tungsten trioxide/titanium dioxide (WO3/TiO2) photoelectrode can store electrons effectively for long periods of time, paving the way for PEC cells to play a bigger role within a smart energy grid.