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Technology

Caffeine cannot just provide energy boost to humans but solar cells too

In a newly conducted research, scientists have discovered that caffeine can help boost energy in solar cells, makin
Published April 29, 2019

In a newly conducted research, scientists have discovered that caffeine can help boost energy in solar cells, making them more efficient at converting light to electricity.

Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Solargiga Energy in China have found that caffeine can make a promising alternative to traditional solar cells and boosting their energy.

The idea for the research initiated with a joke when lead researcher Jingjing Xue made a joke over morning coffee. “One day, as we were discussing perovskite solar cells, our colleague Rui Wang said, ‘If we need coffee to boost our energy then what about perovskites? Would they need coffee to perform better?’,” recalled Xue.

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The team then found that caffeine in coffee is an alkaloid compound consisting for molecular structures that can interact with the precursors of perovskite materials – compounds with a specific crystal structure that form the light-harvesting layer in a class of solar cells, as per Science Daily.

The team then added caffeine to the perovskite layer of forty solar cells and used infrared spectroscopy in order to determine that the caffeine had successfully bonded with the material. Upon conducting more tests, the researchers observed that the carbonyl groups (carbon atom double bonded to an oxygen) in caffeine interacted with lead ions to create a ‘molecular lock’.

The interaction increased the minimum amount of energy needed for the perovskite film to react, hence boosting the solar cell efficiency from 17% to over 20%. The molecular lock continued to occur when the material was heated, which could help prevent heat from breaking down the layer.

“We were surprised by the results,” said Wang. “During our first try incorporating caffeine, our perovskite solar cells already reached almost the highest efficiency we achieved in the paper.”

However, the team does not think that caffeine could be useful for other types of solar cells other than perovskite due to caffeine’s unique molecular structure. Wang believes that with further research, caffeine can help large-scale production of perovskite solar cells.

“Caffeine can help the perovskite achieve high crystallinity, low defects, and good stability,” he said. “This means it can potentially play a role in the scalable production of perovskite solar cells.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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