Scientists at the Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee in India are investigating the potential of using fruits and fruit juices to help solar cells be more efficient and cheaper for consumers. After the researchers successfully fabricating Dye Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSCs) by extracting plant pigments from dark fruits, such as black currants, berries and plums to help DSSCs absorb sunlight, which are usually made up of titanium dioxide coated photoanode, the group is investigating future if this could be the next step for making solar panels more accessible. Although it is not as efficient as conventional silicon-based solar cells, the technology is definitely something worth exploring. “We extracted the pigment using ethanol and found that anthocyanin was a great absorber of sunlight,” lead researcher Soumitra Satapathi, assistant professor at IIT-Roorkee, told Quartz India.
As India aims to achieve its pledge of 40% renewable energy sources by 2030, these cells could have a lot of potential for the country. “Widespread availability of these fruits and juices, high concentration of anthocyanins in them, and ease of extraction of anthocyanin dyes from these commonly available fruits render them novel and inexpensive candidates for solar cell fabrication,” the study’s authors stated. Furthermore, “anthocyanins are naturally occurring biodegradable and nontoxic molecules that are extracted using techniques that involve negligible low cost to the environment and therefore can provide ecofriendly alternatives to synthetic dyes for [Dye Sensitized Solar Cells] production.” How it all started? With an abundance of plum (jamun) trees on the IIT campus, Satapathi pondered on a thought of utilizing these popular fruits, known as Fruits of the Gods in India, for Dye Sensitized Solar Cells. Looks like the Gods had big plans in store for these delicious fruits.