Jamun or Black plum, a vital Indian summer fruit associated with many health and medicinal benefits, has now been utilised by scientists at IIT Roorkee for its yet another peculiarity.
Researchers have used this juicy summer fruit to create inexpensive and more efficient solar cells using naturally occurring pigment found in it as an inexpensive photosensitiser for Dye Sensitised Solar Cells (DSSCs) or Gratzel cells.
Gratzel cells are low-cost solar cells belonging to the group of thin film solar cells. To generate the current, the Gratzel cell uses a sensitiser dye and nano particles of the semiconductor Titanium dioxide (TiO2).
These components form a sandwich-like structure with the dye molecule or photosensitizer playing a pivotal role through its ability to absorb visible light.
Soumitra Satapathi, lead researcher and assistant professor at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee said, "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)".
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 alternate energy", added Satapathi.
The research was published in the Journal of Photovoltaics and the team which includes Nipun Sawhney and Anubhav Raghav, is very optimistic that the process can easily be replicated for mass production of solar cells.
(With inputs from PTI)