Self Repairing Solar Cells

MIT researchers have developed microscopic solar cells that mimic the way plant cells create energy from sunlight. The cells make use of proteins turning sunlight into electric charges. These solar cells just billionths of a meter across are longer lasting and more efficient than static photovoltaic cells.

Made up of a synthetic molecular mixture containing phospholipids that, when mixed with a solution, create a structural support that responds to light and can realign the system once electrons are “knocked loose” by the particles of light. The synthetic cells are able to self assemble and self repair themselves, just like plant cells do, when they are damaged by the destructive mixture of sunlight and oxygen.

The MIT researchers tested a prototype of the synthetic molecules, discovering the system to be 40% efficient–about double of the most advanced solar cells currently available. Photovoltaic cells are prone to reduced efficiency due to dust, debris, hail, and most often the sun itself, extended exposure to the sun gradually damages their internals, reducing their useful lifetime. In just 60 hours, efficiency can sometimes plummet as much as 90%.

This new research opens the possibilities for inexpensive, self repairing solar cells with an extended and possibly indefinite lifetime.

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