Applications for Growth in the Dye-Sensitized Cell Industry20 Sep 2011 • by Natalie Aster
Manufacturers of dye-sensitized cells (DSC) are shifting their attention to new applications where the capabilities of this PV technology can be better sold. These include applications in the building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) space and applications where the available light is limited. Meanwhile an apparent resurgence of interest in DSC has been reflected in a growing number of alliances being formed and the emergence of new materials suppliers. There have been technical improvements too. And although DSC cells continue to lag all other forms of PV (except organic PV (OPV)) in terms of efficiency, in the past couple of years DSC firms have been showing performance improvements that brings their offerings close to amorphous silicon (a-Si) PV.
Given these trends, NanoMarkets, a leading provider of market research and analysis of the opportunities in advanced materials and emerging energy and electronics markets, believes that revenues from DSC sales will climb from $28 million in 2011 to $4.89 billion in 2018.
Summary of DSC Market Forecasts
The report “Dye Sensitized Cells: Materials, Applications and Opportunites - 2011” by NanoMarkets focuses exclusively on the DSC space. In addition to analyzing the opportunities for this technology in the BIPV and mobile PV space, the report appraises the strategies of the main firms active in this space. As with all NanoMarkets reports, it also provides an eight-year forecast for the DSC sector by volume and value of shipments.
Published: April 2011
Price: US$ 2,795.00
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Recent DSC Performance Trends
Research and development work in the DSC space continues around the world and the battle for DSC efficiency improvements is still being fought today. Sony received certification at 9.9 percent in August 2010, and Solaronix claims "10 percent" conversion efficiency, but without pointing to a particular result or certification. As we just noted, this is very close to what has been achieved with a-Si as a PV absorber layer and a-Si continues to see market growth suggesting good things ahead for DSC too.
The flip side of this story is that looked at from the perspective of the PV market as a whole, a-Si is beginning lose market share, so being just as good as a-Si isn’t really good enough. A realistic assessment of DSC suggests that DSC will never be another CdTe or CIGS; that is a PV technology that can boast about how high its efficiency is.
Nonetheless, NanoMarkets believes that DSC will be able to improve performance over the next few years along non-conventional dimensions such as flexibility and transparency. These advances will enable DSC to build competitive advantages in certain markets where it cannot compete against other PV technologies in terms of efficiency.
A complication in the reporting of DSC efficiencies is that DSC cells are often more efficient in lower intensity light. That is, under less than full sunlight illumination the conversion efficiency increases modestly. Of course, this increase is not enough to produce more power as light intensity decreases, but it does help DSC cells to avoid dramatic drops in power output in low light. For this reason the DSC industry has been somewhat dissatisfied with the standard testing and reporting methods used to determine the "performance" of photovoltaic cells.
The reality of BIPV and other photovoltaic applications that do not track the sun has also led to an increasing focus on total energy production by PV modules, rather than peak power output or peak conversion efficiency. This shift in focus is natural because in most cases the electrical power that photovoltaics substitutes for is measured—and paid for—in units of energy, or kilowatt hours.
The introduction of new functionality to the 2009 version of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Solar Advisor Model (SAM) to model PV performance at different levels of light intensity will reveal the higher (relative) power output of DSC modules under off-axis illumination, in shade, or under artificial light and provide a "boost" to DSC power calculations in determining the value of system installations. NanoMarkets sees this development as favorable and improving the accuracy of modeling and decision making in the photovoltaics industry. Unfortunately it will have little impact on the portable and flexible applications that are so important to DSC markets. And module ratings will likely continue to be defined by peak power output for several years to come.
Therefore, many companies are de-emphasizing the standard peak conversion efficiency they achieve and are more likely to say that their cells perform "30 percent better" than another type of cell under certain lighting conditions, or that their cells produce "more uniform power throughout the day." Sometimes they do not even bother to certify claimed efficiencies through an independent agency. NanoMarkets cautions, however, that absence of serious certification may have some long-term negative implications for DSC, in that it raises skepticism among both customers and investors. The lack of certification has caused some new, high efficiency announcements to be taken with a grain of salt—perhaps leading some observers to mentally discount them to some lower value.
On the other hand, this shift in emphasis on alternative performance properties indicates a shift in market focus for DSC that requires a different type of performance measurement. More specifically, DSC manufacturers might rather have their products compared on the basis of indoor or other low-level illumination—or at least on total kWh output—instead of on peak watts in full sun. And they are drawing attention to these aspects that are stronger in comparison to other technologies maintaining more of their power output under low-light or off-angle illumination, and in some cases improved conversion efficiency as the modules get warmer, and are also focusing on indoor markets more heavily than other technologies do.
More information can be found in the report “Dye Sensitized Cells: Materials, Applications and Opportunites - 2011” by NanoMarkets.
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