A key problem with solar power is that a significant amount of energy is lost when the electrons move from the solar panel to the battery that stores the energy. A group of researchers from The Ohio State University (OSU) has fortunately come up with a first of its kind solar battery that can both capture and store the sun's energy.

Reporting their innovation in "Integrating a redox-coupled dye-sensitized photoelectrode into a lithium-oxygen battery for photoassisted charging", which was published in the journal Nature Communications on Oct. 3, OSU chemistry and biochemistry professor Yiying Wu and colleagues said that they have successfully fused solar cell and a battery into one hybrid device using mesh solar panels and a process that facilitates the transfer of electrons between the solar panel and the the battery.

The team has come up with a solution for the loss of up to 20 percent of energy when electrons are transferred from the solar cells to a separate battery unit by fusing the battery right into the panel. The technology allows sunlight to be converted into electrons inside the battery saving almost 100 percent of the electrons and solving a problem with solar energy efficiency wherein only 80 percent of the electrons from the solar cells get into the battery for storage.

The new hybrid device runs on light and oxygen and traps electricity using a simple chemical reaction. Electrons are produced when light from the sun hits the mesh solar panel. The electrons inside the battery then get involved when lithium peroxide decomposes into lithium ions and oxygen. While the oxygen is released into the air, the lithium ions get stored in the battery as lithium metal.

The researchers said that the solar device, which taps energy from the rays of the sun, could revolutionize the industry. For one, it helps bring down the cost of renewable energy.  Wu explained that integrating the previously separate functions of trapping light energy and storing the energy into one device can reduce costs. The researchers estimate that the technology could bring down costs by as much as 25 percent.  

"The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy," Wu said. "We've integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost."

OSU is set to license the solar battery.

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