Spanish scientists use magnetic electrodes to increase efficiency of fullerene-based solar cell

An international research team led by the Spanish research institute Ikerbasque has created a new solar cell based on fullerene C60, a ball-shaped molecule comprised of 60 carbon atoms that is also known as “Buckyball”.

This organic material, according to the scientists, allows the spin direction to be controlled, which in turn allows an increase in the efficiency of the solar cell itself, enabling it to generate a bigger current.

The research coordinator Luis Hueso explained that the device is a simple PV cell manufactured from fullerene C60 and fitted with cobalt and nickel magnetic electrodes.

“The spins of normal solar cells are ‘disordered’ but, thanks to magnetism, we have managed to ‘order’ them so that a bigger current can be collected,” Hueso added. The use of electrodes, the research team said, increases the photovoltaic efficiency of the device by 14%.

Another advantage found with this device is its ability of generating alternating current (AC) directly. This has the potential to bring about more cost-effective solar cells, as no transformers or inverters would then be needed to turn the direct current (DC) into AC.

However, the researchers have admitted that although they are capable of showing how magnetic electrodes allow efficiency gains for PV cells, they are still a long distance from finding the optimum solar cell.

The research was conducted by Ikerbasque in partnership with the China Academy of Sciences, and the Max Planck Institute of Germany.