|Schematic representation of the principle of a dye-sensitized solar cell. Source: Michael Graetzel.|
Aisin Seiki, perhaps better known as a transmission manufacturer, has worked with Toyota Central R&D Labs Inc. to develop dye-sensitized solar cells (DSC)—photoelectrochemical cells also known as Graetzel cells. (Earlier post.)
Because dye-sensitized solar cells are made of low-cost material and do not require an elaborate apparatus for manufacture, they are around 60% cheaper to make than conventional silicon-based products.
In addition to being less costly, DSCs can generate electricity in even weak light. Moreover, since the solar cells can be adjusted in terms of both transparency and color, they can be designed for attachment to windows in cars and homes, or given a mirror-like reflective surface as well as patterned with marbling.
Toyota and Aisin Seiki earlier developed two prototype of DSC modules to meet different artistic and architectural designs, which the companies displayed during the Aichi EXPO 2005.
Aisin Seiki reportedly is now evaluating the durability and heat characteristics of the solar cell with the goal of having a practical version ready in four to five years for applications in cars and homes, according to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun.
Honda Motor is also entering the market for solar cells designed for use in households and vehicles. The company is building a ¥10-billion (US$86.5-million) factory to begin mass production in fiscal 2007 of solar cells made an inexpensive thin-membrane non-silicon metal compound developed by Honda engineering.
The Honda solar panels, first announced in 2002, feature a light-absorbing layer formed by a compound made of copper, indium, gallium and diselenium (CIGS). Other companies working with CIGS cells include Shell Solar and Würth. (Earlier post.)