Solar power from concrete
DYSCRETE – SOLAR POWER FROM CONCRETE
DysCrete is an innovative approach to the generation of energy, based on the same underlying principles as dye-sensitized solar cells (DYSC), from which it gains its name. Like other cells based on DYSC technology, DysCrete uses organic dyes to absorb light and produce electricity through electrochemical reactions. Analysis of this still novel process reveals a high degree of compatibility between DYSC technology and the chemistry and physics of concrete, including its material logic and production methods. DYSC cells are modeled on nature. Much like chlorophyll-bearing plants, they absorb light not with semiconductor materials, but with organic dyes held in suspension. In this sense, the technology is an adaptation of the photosynthetic process.
THE DYSCRETE CONCEPT
The DysCrete project began with the idea of a concrete block that would generate electricity when fruit juice was poured over it. Initial attempts proved that cement could serve as the basis for a targeted synthesis of photoreactive particles and building materials. Promising new technologies and alternative processes such as the DYSC cell call for further development through direct application. The DYSC cell is one of the most efficient new solar-cell technologies, but most researchers have focused on the considerable potential of glass-based translucent modules. Until now, the possibility of combining DYSC cells with construction materials such as concrete has been overlooked. The main challenge is to optimize the cell’s long-term stability. DysCrete uses a spray-coating method that can be performed in situ. The conventional encapsulation process, in which the failure of a single component renders the entire cell useless, is replaced by a layer grouping system with a renewable sandwich structure that offers exceptional versatility in cell construction.
HOW THE PROCESS WORKS
Technically, the DysCrete cell is based on a simple structure of functional layers. These combine to form a redox reaction coating that generates energy through an electrochemical process when exposed to light. This coating can be created on concrete surfaces by systematically modifying their physical and chemical structure while applying and integrating specific substances. The electricity-generating material is refined through a process of synthesis and layering, a combination of sintering and spray deposition that can easily be integrated into the production of prefabricated elements. By adjusting the dye and electrolyte components, the layer system can be tuned to specific wavebands of light, including the very edges of the visible spectrum. One major advantage of dye-sensitized concrete is its relatively low production cost, giving the system great potential as a low-cost energy source.
DysCrete combines the advantages of technological photosynthesis and concrete. The basis of the system is concrete, with its many positive qualities as a structural product (fire resistance, high strength and durability, variety of construction methods). The energy-generating function is produced with freely available components, with no additional toxic emissions. The innovative system of materials is renewable, largely recyclable and environmentally friendly. Because it can make use of the energy in diffuse light, its structural applications are virtually unlimited compared to conventional photovoltaic systems, opening up a world of possibilities in the field of structurally integrated photovoltaics. DysCrete is ideally suited for manufacturing prefabricated concrete elements for building construction, for new types of building facades, and for indoor and outdoor wall and floor systems.
research & project funding
- Research Initiative Future Building
- Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development
- Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety