Solar cells that harvest indoor light to produce energy

Think of solar energy, and the image that generally forms in our minds is of the outdoor solar panels that capture sunlight and convert it into electricity. We see solar farms in many parts of the world. These conventional solar panels require direct sunlight and occupy substantial land areas, including valuable real estate.

In contrast to conventional solar panels, research is being carried out on new generation photovoltaic technologies called dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs). The DSCs can also function in low, artificial or indirect light, making them ideal for indoor use.

CSIR-NIIST has been exploring this area for more than a decade now. The Institute has been working on dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs), which can harvest indoor light (indoor photovoltaics). The technology is suitable for building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) applications considering aesthetics and its ability to be made in various colours, simultaneously retaining considerable transparency.

By 2023, the indoor photovoltaics market is expected to touch $850 million. DSCs are much more flexible than the conventional, first-generation silicon solar photovoltaics and can be integrated with various surfaces, including glass, metal and plastic.



For the first time in the country, CSIR-NIIST researchers and their industrial partner, M/s Elixir Technologies, Bangalore, succeeded in establishing an indigenous semi-automatic fabrication unit for manufacturing dye-sensitized solar cell (DSC) based modules. The partnership has achieved a cost reduction of as much as 50-60% in module fabrication equipment.

The NIIST team has successfully demonstrated the production of DSC modules up to 30cm x 30cm in size. The fabrication equipment unit was installed and commissioned at CSIR-NIIST in October 2018 and was licensed to Elixir Technologies, Bangalore, for commercialization in October 2019.

CSIR-NIIST, along with the Industrial partner, can now cater to the needs of Academic, Government and Private research and academic organizations in delivering the truly indigenous equipment and turn-key solution lines of 3rd generation photovoltaic technologies. The Department of Science and Technology-Solar Energy Research Initiative (DST-SERI) programme funded the project. This project was selected to the PMO's high priority implementation category. The DSC module fabrication line at CSIR-NIIST is the first of its kind in the country and aligns with the 'Make in India' and 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' initiatives.

Dr. Suraj Soman, Dr. Narayanan Unni K. N., & Dr. A. Ajayaghosh
CSIR-National Institute of Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (CSIR-NIIST)