Shrimp Shells Yield Cheap Solar Cells

Electricity-generating solar cells have been created from the chemicals found shells of shrimp and other crustaceans, for the first time. The materials chitin and chitosan, found in the shells, are abundant and significantly cheaper to produce than the expensive metals such as ruthenium, which is similar to platinum, that are currently used in making nanostructured solar-cells.

Currently the efficiency of solar cells made with these biomass-derived materials is low but if it can be improved they could be placed in everything from wearable chargers for tablets, phones and smart watches, to semi-transparent films over window.

Researchers, from Queen Mary Univ. of London’s School of Engineering and Materials Science, used a process known as hydrothermal carbonization to create the carbon quantum dots (CQDs) from the widely and cheaply available chemicals found in crustacean shells. They then coat standard zinc oxide nanorods with the CQDs to make the solar cells.

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