Solar cells made from shrimps have generated electricity for the first time, marking a success for researchers at Queen Mary University of London.
Isolating chemicals chitin and chitosan commonly found in shells of shrimps and other crustaceans, the researchers used a process known as hydrothermal carbonisation to create carbon quantum dots, which they then applied on zinc oxide nanorods.
The resultant solar cells, although considerably less efficient than currently prevalent silicon panels, could be made at comparatively low cost, the researchers believe, as the material needed is abundant.
“This could be a great new way to make these versatile, quick and easy to produce solar cells from readily available, sustainable materials,” said Joe Briscoe, one of the researchers on the project. “Once we’ve improved their efficiency they could be used anywhere that solar cells are used now, particularly to charge the kinds of devices people carry with them every day."
The team believes further research could improve efficiency of such biomass-based solar cells thus providing a viable alternative to using expensive metals such as platinum or ruthenium.
“New techniques mean that we can produce exciting new materials from organic by-products that are already easily available. Sustainable materials can be both high-tech and low-cost,” said Professor Magdalena Titirici, who led the team.
“We’ve also used biomass, in that case algae, to make the kinds of super capacitors that can be used to store power in consumer electronics, in defibrillators and for energy recovery in vehicles.”