Solar battery that can absorb light and store energy simultaneously

The synthesized material can be used to create a solar battery.

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Researchers at the University of Cordoba and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research (Germany) are working on the design of a solar battery made from an abundant, non-toxic, and easily synthesized material composed of 2D carbon nitride.

As solar cell technology continues to gain momentum, researchers are exploring new avenues for developing multifunctional devices that can capture and store energy on the same material.

In the process between the collection of light by the solar cell and the on-demand use of energy, storage plays a crucial role since the availability of solar energy has inherent intermittency.

In order to facilitate this storage process and deal with problems such as the environmental impact of the extraction, recycling, or scarcity of some of the materials necessary for conventional batteries, the solar battery concept was born. Solar batteries store the excess energy generated by your solar panels, which can then be used when needed.

Now, a University of Cordoba researcher Alberto Jiménez-Solano, together with a team from the Max Planck Institute, has carried out a study where he explored the design characteristics of a solar battery made from a material based on 2D carbon nitride. For this, the team managed to synthesize a material capable of absorbing light and storing that energy for later use on demand.

The material (2D potassium carbon nitride, poly(heptazine imide), K-PHI) is normally in powder form or in aqueous suspensions of nanoparticles. Therefore, researchers first found a way to deposit a thin layer of this material, creating a stable structure to start manufacturing a photovoltaic device.

The device consists of a high-transparency glass with a transparent conductive coating to allow the transport of load and a series of layers of semi-transparent materials and another conductive glass that closes the circuit. The resulting system can absorb light on both sides since it is semi-transparent.

By combining optical simulations and photoelectrochemical experiments, they are able to explain the characteristics of this solar battery’s high performance when capturing sunlight and storing energy.

This project demonstrates the performance of this device, made from a harmless, abundant, environmentally sustainable material (extracted from urea) which is easy to synthesize. In the next step, researchers plan to study its operation in various situations outside the laboratory and adapt it to different manufacturing possibilities and needs.

Journal reference:

  1. Andreas Gouder, Liang Yao, Yang Wang, Filip Podjaski, Ksenia S. Rabinovich, Alberto Jiménez-Solano, Bettina V. Lotsch. Bridging the Gap between Solar Cells and Batteries: Optical Design of Bifunctional Solar Batteries Based on 2D Carbon Nitrides. Advanced Energy Materials, 2023; DOI: 10.1002/aenm.202300245
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