Germany has added a new technological contribution to the renewable energy sector with a new invention developed by researchers at the University of Kassel: Photovoltaic Concrete. Named “DysCrete”, this concrete is still in prototype stage but it would be able to generate electricity by converting solar energy into an electric current.
A team of researchers from the University of Kassel in Germany has developed construction materials that can conduct electricity, including photovoltaic concrete (named “DysCrete”). This innovation could be used in the future in several applications, including building facades inherently capable of transforming solar energy into electricity.
A process inspired by photosynthesis
“DysCrete” consists of special conductive concrete, coated with titanium dioxide that can capture solar energy, a currant juice based liquid and a graphite layer. A transparent layer covers and protects this concrete while allowing at the same time sunlight to pass through. The result: A cell made of photosensitive pigment, also known as a dye-sensitized solar cell, which gives the concrete properties allowing it to transform solar energy into electric current, using a process similar to photosynthesis.
At the crossroads between the construction and the photovoltaic industries
Neither the idea of incorporating photovoltaic modules into concrete nor photosensitive pigments based cells were invented at the University of Kassel. What is new, however, is the incorporation of solar cells directly into construction materials such as concrete. When used this way, dye-sensitized solar cells can represent an alternative to traditional silicon.
The target set by the researchers is to reach a degree of efficiency of about 2 percent in the cells, i.e. 2% of the captured solar energy should be converted into electric current. In comparison to efficency levels of photovoltaic panels, this figure may seem small, but keep in mind that the photovoltaic concrete would be used on much larger areas and at much lower production costs, thanks to these easy-to-obtain, ecological and easily recyclable raw materials. Titanium dioxide, in particular, is a frequently used material, which is found, for example, in toothpaste. The last advantage of this photovoltaic concrete: the photosensitive pigment cells, which means that the “DysCrete” reacts to diffused light, which would allow the photovoltaic concrete to be also used on walls exposed to the north, i.e. exposed to low sunlight radiation, where traditional photovoltaic panels are not used.