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Swinburne scientists solve solar puzzle

29th May 2012

Boffins at Swinburne University of Technology are one step closer to finding out what exactly makes solar panels containing ferrocene so efficient.

The synthetic compound - which is described by university scientists as one of modern chemistry's "fundamental building blocks" - is favoured by solar panel manufacturers thanks to its stability, as well as the fact it is relatively cheap to produce.

But until now, nobody has ever been able to figure out what makes ferrocene tick.

This is where a team led by Swinburne's professor Feng Wang has stepped in - using expert chemistry and physics skills to find out why ferrocene is such a great solar ingredient.

As a molecular expert, Feng is well-versed in this type of project - her research has contributed to the development of solar cells and even projects that examine cancer drug targeting.

Breaking down the compound's molecular structure, the team discovered that ferrocene is composed of a "sandwich complex".

It appears that the so-called "sandwich" isn't the chicken and avocado variety, but instead combines two similar elements that perform different functions. The distance between these elements creates iron vibration, which can be measured.

But what does this scientific mumbo-jumbo mean for the world of Australian solar research?

Well as it turns out, quite a lot!

Solar cell applications using ferrocenium or ferrocene alongside light-sensitive solar dyes have shown potential, according to researchers - and now the next step is to find out some more information about its molecular structure.

This isn't the first time the smarties at Swinburne University of Technology have turned to science to explain the mysteries of solar.

In November last year, Dr Baohua Jia was granted $375,000 in funding to carry out in-depth research into solar panel efficiency - focusing on thin film technology.

The funding was granted as part of the university's new Discovery Early Career Researcher Scheme.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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