Materials science is one of the most open-ended fields of discovery. As if to prove the point, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have used human hair clippings sourced from a Brisbane barbershop to create carbon nanodots that were then incorporated into perovskite solar cells.
The researchers have discovered that the hair creates an armor-like framework that supports greater stability and improved performance. The research group, led by Professor Hongxia Wang, recently published a paper on its findings in the Journal of Materials Science A. It has been studying advanced solar cells for 20 years, and has been working with perovskite technology for about a decade.
Perovskites are widely considered the successor to today’s monocrystalline silicon solar cells. Their outstanding properties include the fact that they are lightweight and can be manufactured as a flexible film. They are suitable for a wide range of energy-generating applications, from clothing to the materials used to make tents, as well as powering spacecraft.
Wang says the team’s ultimate aim is to make solar energy cheaper and easier to access, so it can help to cleanly cater to global energy needs. The big challenges in the area of perovskite solar cells are stability improvements, so that cells are “able to operate for 20 years or longer, and the development of a manufacturing method that is suitable for large-scale production,” she said.
Wang tried incorporating the carbon-dot solution out of “curiosity” after one of her colleagues transformed hair clippings into carbon nanodots by breaking down the strands and then burning them at 240 C. They subsequently used them to create flexible displays that could be used in future iterations of smart devices.
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