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Major investment in more environmentally friendly solar energy

Chemistry professor Kenneth Wärnmark at Lund University in Sweden has been awarded SEK 35 million for a research project about using iron molecules to develop solar cells and solar fuel. The grant is aimed at producing cheaper and more environmentally-friendly materials that can capture the energy of the sun.
Iron molecule
Iron molecule

Kenneth Wärnmark has for many years conducted research on the possibilities of developing more environmentally-friendly solar cells by using iron molecules as a key ingredient. Iron would in this context have an advantage over the more precious and rare metal, ruthenium – the metal previously known to have the most desired properties.

“Using iron instead of more expensive and rare metals could make the production of solar cells cheaper and more environmentally friendly. The demand for solar cells is therefore expected to increase significantly”, says Kenneth Wärnmark, chemist at Lund University’s Faculty of Science.

A couple of years ago, Wärnmark and his research colleagues succeeded in pinpointing how iron-based dyes work at the molecular level in solar cells. And last year, they made further progress by successfully manipulating the energy levels of the iron-based molecules with good results.

“Medieval alchemists tried to produce gold from other substances but failed. You could say that we have succeeded in modern alchemy by giving iron properties that are similar to ruthenium”, says Kenneth Wärnmark.

These research findings now form the basis for Wärnmark’s upcoming major project on inexpensive and environmentally-friendly solar cells and solar fuels. The grant of SEK 35 million was awarded by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research. The foundation is making a major investment to support research that involves developing new materials for more efficient energy systems. The projects that have been awarded funding are considered to have the potential to be converted into marketable products within 5 to 15 years.

In the new project, Kenneth Wärnmark will collaborate with his Lund colleagues Petter Persson, Theoretical Chemistry, and Arkady Yartsev, Chemical Physics, as well as with Reiner Lomoth at the Ångström Laboratory at Uppsala University.
 

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