With improved efficiency, these solar cells could be placed in everything from wearable chargers for tablets, phones, smartwatches to semi-transparent films over window, researchers said.

"This could be a great way to make these versatile, quick and easily produced solar cells from readily available, sustainable materials," said one of the researchers on the project, Joe Briscoe from Queen Mary University of London.

"Once we have improved their efficiency they could be used anywhere that solar cells are used now, particularly to charge the kinds of devices people carry with them every day," Briscoe said.

The materials chitin and chitosan found in the shells are abundant and significantly cheaper to produce than the expensive metals such as ruthenium, which is similar to platinum, that are currently used in making nanostructured solar-cells.

Researchers used a process known as hydrothermal carbonization to create the carbon quantum dots (CQDs) from chemicals found in crustacean shells. They then coat standard zinc oxide nanorods with the CQDs to make the solar cells.

"New techniques mean that we can produce exciting new materials from organic by-products that are easily available. Sustainable materials can be both high-tech and low-cost,"Magdalena Titirici, professor at Queen Mary University of London said.

The study appeared in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

 

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