By Dr Harry Zervos, senior technology analyst, IDTechEx.
16 May 2013 – The market for dye sensitised solar cells (DSSCs) is forecasted to grow slowly to more than US$130 million by 2023 according to market research company IDTechEx. Although initial products are aimed towards indoor, portable applications such as solar chargers, solar bags and solar wireless keyboards, the end game for DSSCs is the ability to have these largely inexpensive solar cells incorporated into a wider variety of product offering, including larger installations. For that purpose, development work is being undertaken to produce prototypes and demonstrators of DSSCs being utilised in applications such as bus shelters, steel roofing and others such as facades, semi-transparent windows etc.
In the next few years applications for portable electronics will remain the most popular application in which DSSCs will be deployed but in later years the scene is going to change. A larger share will be taken over by applications such as smart labels, the currently nascent sector of energy harvesting for wireless sensor networks as well as applications in photovoltaics (PV) for developing countries and building integrated solutions. Mobile electronics and automotive integration will remain limited, mainly due to the power output demands for these demanding but also cost-sensitive market segments.
The difficulties in the PV industry in recent years have had their impact on dye sensitised solar cells; the slow growth of the market for the technology being testimony to the effects of the PV industry slowdown. With DSSC technology being part of a third generation of PV devices the market conditions have been especially challenging.
Regardless of this fact, there has been activity that showcases that developments in the DSSC industry are continuing. Established companies such as Dyesol continue their work on large scale installations in collaboration with Tata Steel in North Wales, UK. G24 Innovations, after going into administration a few months ago is under new management and has renamed itself G24i Power, continuing its commercialisation efforts. NLAB has also been revamped and is now called Exeger and having received a US$20 million dollar investment is proceeding with building a 20 MW production line in Stockholm, Sweden, in which it will further develop its DSSCs incorporating its proprietary 1DPC (1-dimensional photonic crystal) technology.
Earlier in the value chain Solaronix is still one of the best established materials providers for DSSCs but is also currently involved in the manufacture of DSSC modules, which will be utilised in a façade commissioned by the EPFL in Lausanne, planned to be completed at the end of 2013. As a newer entrant, Dyenamo of Sweden is focusing on developing innovative material solutions but also offers design and integration services, samples on demand as well as consultancy services to its customers.
Finally, it’s not just European companies pushing ahead with DSSC developments. Although multinational giants Sharp and Sony seem to be winding down their DSSC operations and are focusing on other products, Nissha Printing in Japan is engaged with further developing its proprietary EneLEAF DSSC technology, while CSIRO in Australia recently became part of a consortium that has been given funding for an US$80 million, eight year project to create a joint Australia-USA research centre on advanced photovoltaics. The lead partner is the University of New South Wales but it includes all of the major research groups working on PV in Australia.