Solar cells that act more like photosynthesizing plants than standard silicon solar sounds like a good bet, right? The investors at Morgan Stanley seem to think so. This week, Morgan Stanley Principal Investments said it has invested $20 million in British startup G24 Innovations, which is working with a technology called dye-sensitized solar cells.
Dye-sensitized solar cells are made up of dye-infused molecules of titanium dioxide (found in toothpaste and sun screen) sandwiched between two layers of electrodes to generate electricity. The technology was developed in 1988 by Michael Grätzel at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and employs nanotechnology. Dye-sensitized solar cells have been compared to plants undergoing photosynthesis because both processes rely on something called the “redox reaction.”
The benefits of the technology is that the solar cell is simple (less moving parts), and also uses less expensive materials than silicon solar cells; titanium dioxide is abundant. The technology can also operate in low light, meaning it can even produce power indoors. On the other hand, dye-sensitized solar cells have so far demonstrated efficiency of just 10 percent — less than half the efficiency of many silicon cells.
G24 Innovations is targeting mobile devices, including cell phones, cameras, portable LED lighting systems and even clothing with its dye-sensitized solar cells. The company recently won $200,000 from the World Bank for its solar-powered LED system in the “Lighting Africa Development Marketplace” awards. And it’s not just for the developing world — the European Union Photovoltaic Roadmap estimates dye-sensitized solar cells could generate as much as 5 percent of the region’s electricity by 2020.
Along with Morgan Stanley, G24 Innovations also counts Draper Fisher Jurveston-backed Konarka as a shareholder. Konarka actually licensed dye-sensitizing solar technology from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology back in 2002 and has been working with Siemens Polymer Solar Cell Technology Division on the technology. In 2006, G24 Innovations founders Ed Stevenson and Bob Hertzberg licensed Konarka’s dye-sensitized solar tech through their investment firm Renewable Capital.
G24i is working on making its own IP around commercializing roll-to-roll manufacturing methods for the solar technology. The company says it brought in 30 MW of production equipment at the end of 2007 and is currently moving into production at its 23-acre facility.
Images courtesy of G24 Innovations.