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New solar cells could mean a plug-less future

Professor Michael Gratzel is the planet’s next hero. Gratzel recently won this year’s Millennium Technology Prize, a competition that seeks out the most innovative life-enhancing technology, with his dye-sensitized solar cells (DSC). DSC are not as efficient as silicone solar cells, but unlike silicone they’re made organically and are inexpensive to produce, two factors that will hopefully make them ubiquitous in no time. Extremely lightweight, DSC can be folded up for transportation and applied to glass. They go on clear or can be tinted any number of colors from dyes made from crushed fruit. That means every pane of glass in any structure can be used to generate solar power – think of what that would mean for a 90-story office building.

But Gratzel hopes to get them into homes as well in the form of table-tops, lamps and even keyboards, as DSC are especially good at absorbing ambient light. If your TV screen, for example, was made with DSC glass, it could operate on its own, without being plugged into another power source. The same goes for computer screens and kitchen appliances, as well as the street lamps that line your block. With applications this limitless, it’s an exciting time for solar energy.