IIT researchers make cheap solar cells with naga pazham

By PTI Published on Apr 26, 2017 05:28 PM IST

New Delhi: Plucking and feasting on fresh, delectable jamuns (naga pazham) is a favourite childhood pastime during summer months, but scientists at IIT Roorkee have found a novel use for the juicy Indian fruit - making inexpensive solar cells.

Researchers used naturally occurring pigment found in jamun as an inexpensive photosensitiser for dye sensitised solar cells (DSSCs) or Gratzel cells.

"The dark colour of jamun and abundance of jamun trees in IIT campus clicked the idea that it might be useful as a dye in the typical dye sensitised solar cells (DSSC)," lead researcher Soumitra Satapathi, assistant professor at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee in Uttarakhand, said.

Researchers extracted dyes from jamun using ethanol. They also used fresh plums and black currant, along with mixed berry juices which contain pigments that give characteristic colour to jamun.

The mixture was then centrifuged and decanted. The extracted coloured pigment, called anthocyanin, was used as a sensitiser.

"Natural pigments are way economical in comparison to regular ruthenium-based pigments and scientists are optimising to improve the efficiency," said Satapathi, who is also a visiting professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the US.

"The increasing pressure on fossil fuels and concern of global warming has inspired continuous search for alternative energy," said Satapathi.

Uncertainty over the pace at which new large dams or nuclear plants can be built means strong reliance on solar power - an area where India has high potential and equally high ambition - to deliver on the country’s pledge to build up a 40 per cent share of non-fossil fuel capacity in the power sector by 2030, researchers said.

"In principle, we have a large social need for renewable energy, especially solar energy. For quite some time, our lab is actively engaged in low-cost, high efficiency, solar cells production," said Satapathi.