Insights from industry

Manufacturing Dye Solar Cells (DSC)

In this interview, Gordon Thompson, CEO & Executive Director at Dyesol Ltd, talks to AZoM about the manufacturing prosesses involved in the photovoltaic industry.

Could you please provide a brief introduction to the industry that Dyesol works within and outline the key drivers?

Dyesol Ltd is a renewable energy company recognised as a world leader in the development and commercialisation of a ‘game-changing’ third-generation photovoltaic technology called Dye Solar Cells (DSC). DSC employs nanotechnology to create electricity from light by mimicking the natural process of photosynthesis. Printed onto the surface of existing materials as a series of very thin layers of materials, DSC enables metal, glass and polymeric based products in the building, transport and electronics sectors to generate energy and improve their energy footprint.

With global energy demand projected to increase by 49% over the next 30 years, there is a surging demand for additional sources of energy. The alternative energy market is also driven by a number of issues including increasing electricity prices, security of supply, safety of power source and global warming.

Industry analyst, NanoMarkets forecasts the Building Integrated Photovoltaics roofing market to reach USD $3.9 Billion by 2016 and the Building Integrated Photovoltaics glass market to reach $6.4 Billion by 2016. These are the markets Dyesol is particularly focused on – the Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) market, which integrates renewable energy technology into building materials to enable buildings to generate their own energy at the point-of-use, effectively turning buildings into power generators.

Could you please give a brief overview and history of Dyesol?

Dyesol was formed in 2004 to commercialise Dye Solar Cell (DSC) technology, developed over the previous 14 years by Sustainable Technologies International, Greatcell Solar and Switzerland's École Polytechnique Fédéral du Lausanne (EPFL). Work is now underway to integrate Dye Solar Cell technology into a range of commercial product solutions, including a 'green alternative' to standard glass building facades and windows and a 'green-alternative' steel roofing product.

Dyesol has become the industrial research hub for the world’s network of researchers into DSC technology, providing complete DSC research, technology and equipment solutions. The Dyesol team has adopted a strategy to fast-track industrial and commercial development of DSC by partnering with large industrial entities in key markets. In these partnerships, Dyesol’s technology and know-how is integrated into the development of dye solar cell “green value-add” products.

How is Dyesol unique in its field?

Dyesol is unique in this niche field because of the high profile collaborations with major leading industrial partners such as Tata Steel Europe in the UK (one of the world’s largest steel producers) and Pilkington North America in the USA (part of Nippon Sheet Glass Group, one of the world’s largest glass producers), and Timo Technologies in South Korea (one of Korea’s leading manufacturers). These leading companies chose to work with Dyesol (over others in the sector) because of our strong internal scientific team and intellectual property portfolio and specialist knowledge. Dyesol is also unique in this niche field because of our strong intellectual property (IP) portfolio and close ties to École Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne (EPFL) and Professor Michael Graetzel where DSC was invented and where important discoveries and advances are still made. As a ‘Pioneer Licensee’ of EPFL, Dyesol has rights to commercialise advances that come from EPFL. In addition Dyesol has over 700 person years’ experience in DSC technology, an impressive patent suit of our own, and a highly skilled, educated and specialised scientific team. The combination of our own patent suit and access to EPFL advances puts Dyesol in a very strong, industry leading position.

Dyesol is also a founding player in this niche field and helped grow the sector from the very beginnign and develop the technology into what it is today. Early on in DSC’s development Dyesol started running the first international conference on DSC technology, bringing together scientists and industrialists from around the world to discuss, collaborate, and grow the sector. The International Conference on the Industrialisation of DSC, or DSC-IC for short, is still a Dyesol event and the only major international conference of its kind in the world.

Dyesol has become the industrial research hub for the world’s network of researchers into DSC technology, providing complete DSC research and technology solutions with a number of leading research teams across the world including Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), EPFL (Switzerland), University Jaume (Spain), CNR (Italy), NIMS (Japan), CSIRO (Australia), Oxford University (UK), Uppsala University (Sweden), Demokritos (Greece), IPP-CAS (China), SPECIFIC (Wales), and Merck (Japan).

What are the key differences between the sensitising dyes that Dyesol manufactures?

Dyesol offers chemical industry’s best quality sensitising dyes for DSC technology, with materials manufactured under strict quality controls and processing standards. All Dyesol dyes provide guaranteed performance, high reproducibility, stable/consistent results, and are of the highest purity. Dyesol offers four primary dyes for researchers, including N3 (a Foundation Dye), N719 (the industry’s Standard Dye or ‘workhorse dye’), Z907 (a hydrophobic dye), and N749 (a black dye). A number of special formulations and other dyes are available upon request. The main differences in these dyes are whether they are optimised for long-life durability, performance and efficiency, hydrophobic systems, or for scientists experimenting with wider spectral capture and variable aesthetic options.

What role does the electrolyte play in DSC technology? Could you explain Dyesol’s manufacturing process of electrolytes?

The electrolyte plays an important role in DSC technology in determining the overall performance and stability of a DSC. The electrolyte is the medium for 1) charge regeneration, 2) charge transport in the form of charged ions of the redox couple, and 3) equilibrating redox concentration gradients between TiO2 and counter electrode surfaces. The electrolyte composition is very critical for performance and for long-term and high-temperature device stability. Dyesol’s range of Electrolytes are manufactured under strict quality control standards at our laboratory and DSC up-scale facility at Dyesol’s headquarters in Australia.

Could you please give a brief overview of the proprietary manufacturing and testing equipment that Dyesol has developed?

Dyesol’s proprietary manufacturing processes and equipment have been developed over years of work in the field to create simple steps requiring lower cost capital equipment. Dyesol’s equipment set comprises a number of processing stations, each easily reprogrammable to enable easy adaptation to a wide range of DSC designs, from test cells, to larger tiles, to other designs. Dyesol’s equipment does not rely on highly skilled operators and Dyesol provides professional training programmes, simple straight-forward process instructions, quality & testing procedures and equipment manuals to our DSC Laboratory and DSC Prototyping system customers. Dyesol is the leader in this field and has served international customers across the globe with our proprietary solutions.

What projects has Dyesol recently been involved in?

Dyesol has a number of projects currently in progress across the world. In a nutshell, we have:

  • In the UK: Met an important milestone in our program with Tata Steel Europe to up-scale dye solar cells for commercial use on coil-coated steel roofing material.
  • In the US: DyeTec Solar, the 50/50 JV with Pilkington North America, won US$1 million OTFF grant to commence first phase of Toledo based large panel glass project and the project has successfully produced large prototype panels.
  • In Asia: Expanded our key materials and equipment supply partners to include SAM (Singapore Aerospace Manufacturing) and Merck.
  • In Japan: Entered into an R&D collaboration with Japan’s National Institute of Materials Science (NIMS) – a world class materials research institute
  • In Europe: collaboration in European FP7 consortia projects
  • In Germany: Awarded an "A-" rating in the industry category of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency by Oekom Research, a German sustainable investment rating agency
  • In Australia: Won the 2012 Innovation Award from Clean Energy Council and was Highly Commended (2012) as the Most Innovative Manufacturer Award from Manufacturer Monthly’s Endeavour Awards

Please see below for more information on some projects.

1. DSC enabled Steel Roofing Material

Dyesol is already well advanced in a multi-year project with Tata Steel Europe in the demonstration of mass production of DSC enabled steel roofing material. Targeting the multi hundred billion dollar building materials market, the goal of the project is to develop, manufacture and market metal roof and wall cladding products with dye solar cell functionality integrated into coil-coated steel.

A dedicated R&D Photovoltaic Accelerator Facility, including a pilot production line, has been built at the Tata Steel Europe site in Shotton, Wales. The team commenced the expansion phase in preparation for the next stage of commercialisation and continued the commitment to demonstrator products made on the pilot line. At the opening of the SBEC (Sustainable Building Envelope Centre), the First Minister of Wales and other visitors inspected prototype demonstration roof modules produced by the Dyesol Tata Steel team at the PV Accelerator building on the Shotton site. This is the first public demonstration of prototype roof modules incorporating DSC on steel.

2. DSC enabled Windows and Glass Building Façade

In the USA, Dyesol has formed a collaborative joint venture under a new subsidiary Dyetec Solar Inc., working with one of the world’s largest glass manufacturers, Pilkington North America (PNA), to commercialise DSC enabled windows and glass building façade. PNA is part of the Nippon Sheet Glass Group, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of glass and glazing products for the building, automotive and specialty glass markets and the leading supplier of Transparent Conductive Oxide (TCO) glass. The Dyetec Solar joint venture is located in Toledo OH, near PNA’s corporate R&D centre.

DyeTec Solar received a US$950,000 grant from Ohio Third Frontier Fund to support the initial phase of work on the development program. DyeTec’s mission is to develop a Standard Technology Platform (STP) consisting of an equipment set and related intellectual property (IP) and know-how to mass manufacture Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell (DSC) coated glass for application in the Building Integrated Photovoltiac (BIPV) market. The project leverages the long established R&D and manufacturing resources of both companies which represent thousands of man years of expertise in glass, TCO and DSC technology and materials manufacture, and will enable downstream suppliers in the glass market to mass produce high performing DSC–TCO glass based products for use in BIPV applications.

Lastly, where can people find out more information about Dyesol and DSC technology?

For more information on Dyesol and DSC technology, we invite people to visit our website at www.dyesol.com and register for our eNewsletter via our homepage “join mailing list” button or to click here.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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