(Natural News) Although solar power is one of the most popular forms of green energy, it certainly is not without flaw. For example, according to Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Director of Economics at the Manhattan Institute, solar energy is responsible for less than one percent of the country’s electricity, yet it costs almost twice as much to produce as natural gas. However, with technology advancing everyday, Americans are constantly finding new ways to manufacture products so that they are cheaper yet just as effective.
Dye-sensitized solar cells, which are one of the most promising types of solar cells in existence, are very efficient at transforming sunshine into energy, yet they are very expensive. This is because dye-sensitized solar cells are made primarily out of platinum, which costs a whopping $1,500 an ounce. Obviously, the cost of producing these cells is passed along to the consumer, making them anything but affordable.
Now, a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech University claims to have a solution.
Professor Yun Hang Yu has created a new material that could both maintain the quality of the solar cells while significantly reducing the cost. The material is known as 3D Graphene, a honeycomb-like structure that combines lithium oxide with carbon monoxide to form lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) and the honeycomb graphene. The lithium carbonate shapes and molds the graphene and then separates them from one another, which prevents it from transforming into the garden-variety graphite. It is important to note that 3D graphene is different than regular graphene, which is two-dimensional and just one molecule thick.
The science behind Professor Yun Hang Yu’s creation is intriguing at the least. Researchers found that the 3D graphene has high conductivity and catalytic activity, which could potentially allow it to store and convert energy. To find out more, the researchers decided to test the 3D graphene by placing it inside of a solar cell and measuring energy output as it sat outside under the sun. They found that the 3D graphene converted 7.8 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity, which is only .2% away from the amount that is converted via the traditional solar cell technology. In other words, the cost was significantly less because platinum was no longer a key ingredient, yet the effectiveness was virtually the same. (RELATED: Find out other reasons why solar power is getting cheaper).