Dyesol takes research to Japan and creates "solar steel" in Wales

Building integrated photovoltaics may be about to move away from the integration of solar modules and towards the full integration of solar energy capacity on an industrial scale, with two announcements from developer Dyesol. The company, which claims the dye sensitized solar cells (DSC) have the potential to be integrated into building materials at lower cost and with less energy demands than other photovoltaic technologies, announced late last week the results of their development with British based steel manufacturer Tata Steel.

While unveiling the steel integration developments, Dyesol and Tata Steel showed off a three meter length of "solar steel" that is one square meter in area. They claim it to be the world’s largest dye sensitized photovoltaic module. Both companies also claimed that the production process used is a, "continuous printing and coating for scaling up of the production of steel strips." Important to this is that a single length of coated "solar steel" is produced, rather than separate cells connected together.

Sylvia Tulloch, managing director of Dyesol told pv magazine that while the exact timeframe of DSC steel commerical production steel isn’t yet public, that Tata Steel is in the process of making plans. "Tata Steel is in the pre-industrial stage, which is the stage you’re at where they design the factory, to take this product to mass production."

From a construction perspective also Tata and Dyesol are confident that the "solar steel" will be accepted by engineers and construction firms and can be incorporated in the British based steel firm’s non-active roofing steel production. Tata Steel has also conducted research into the construction market and believes that, given the energy savings delivered by the DSC technology, it will be widely used.

"Tata has done those calculations based on electricity pricing across their target market. They’ve been out to their customers and ascertained that something like 20 percent of their output can be converted to solar steel," said Tulloch. Given that Tata produces 200,000 million square meters of steel per year, Tulloch admitted to pv magazine, "we’re talking about big numbers!"

The "solar steel" announcement came on the back of Dyesol’s winning of a prestigious research grant from the Japanese Government to establish a research facility there. Tulloch explained to pv magazine, "it allows us to have better access to and to work with some excellent Japanese researchers and research groups who are developing the advanced versions of the Dyesolar cell."

The research will be targeted at increasing efficiency and Dyesol will work with Japanese teams with a history in developing methods to attain some of the highest efficiency levels using DSC technology at an industrial level. Dyesol was one of five international companies to receive the grand which has a combined value of $30.7 million and was awarded by the Japanese Ministery of Ecnomy Trade and Industry (METI). The grant was made late last month with research facilities scheduled to open in July.