Functionalized algae-based dyes for photovoltaic applications

Projekt SolarAlgen

The goal of the project is to develop efficient solar cells for renewable energy generation using organic and sustainable green pigments extracted from Baltic microorganisms. In short, such devices realize a manmade version of photosynthesis which has been mastered by the life on our planet for approximately the last 3,5 billions of years.

Such devices are called dye-sensitized solar cells and typically achieve only low efficiencies while expensive, non-renewable, artificial, and toxic photoactive materials. Our project attempts to remedy these difficulties by obtaining help from small but clever single cell helical cyanobacteria Arthrospira. The corresponding green dye is called tetrapyrrole. Their application in solar cell devices is yet largely unexplored and require systemic basic research. The scientific agenda of the project is thus threefold.

First, in a very fruitful collaboration with our industry partner Sea & Sun Technology GmbH from Trappenkamp, Schleswig-Holstein, the algae are naturally grown and pre-processed. Subsequently, the dyes are extracted and chemically modified in order to maximize their photovoltaic potential. In the second step, the prepared pigments are used to fabricate solar cell modules. They undergo photovoltaic characterization, in particular concerning the quantum efficiency, spectral sensitivity, and electric properties. The measurements are performed using a specialized solar simulator (a highly stable and gauged lamp imitating the sun) in laboratory as well as in the field over long time period using the real sun, in order to probe stability of the generators under real-life conditions.

The experimental studies are performed at Technical University Lübeck by Prof. Nadine Buczek und Prof. Mark Elbing and guided using high performance computer-based quantum simulations in the group of Prof. Paweł Buczek at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences.

In cooperation with
Technische Hochschule Lübeck
Sea & Sun Technology GmbH
Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science