A team of researchers from Imperial College London, Soochow University in China, and the University of Cambridge have published a paper on green materials designed for use in next-generation solar panels to let Internet of Things (IoT) devices harvest energy from indoor lighting.
"Our discovery opens up a whole new direction in the search for green, easy-to-make materials to sustainably power our smart devices," claims co-author Professor Vincenzo Pecunia of the work. "In addition to their eco-friendly nature, these materials could potentially be processed onto unconventional substrates such as plastics and fabric, which are incompatible with conventional technologies. Therefore, lead-free perovskite-inspired materials could soon enable battery-free devices for wearables, healthcare monitoring, smart homes, and smart cities."
The concept of powering smart devices using harvested light isn't new: Solar panels are commonly used to power remote outdoor sensor equipment, and increased efficiencies have allowed the same concept to be used indoors — harvesting artificial light from lamps around the house. The materials used for solar panel production, though, aren't always the most environmentally-friendly — which is where the team has concentrated its efforts, developing perovskite-inspired materials based on bismuth and antimony.
"By efficiently absorbing the light coming from lamps commonly found in homes and buildings, the materials can turn light into electricity with an efficiency already in the range of commercial technologies," notes paper co-author Dr. Robert Hoye of the work. "We have also already identified several possible improvements, which would allow these materials to surpass the performance of current indoor photovoltaic technologies in the near future."
The full paper has been published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials under open-access terms.