Solar Energy Zombie Cells

in STEMGeekslast year

Zombies are running over photovoltaics. A surprising discovery led to the development of incredible zombie energy cells.


Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay

Connecting to the Internet requires energy. And that means either a direct connection to the power grid through a socket or a battery. And as we are expecting the Internet of Things which should connect practically anything to the Internet we will need a lot more batteries. And just consider this – an average household in Britain goes through 21 different batteries in a year. And the absolute majority of them end up on garbage dump.

So, scientists are proposing a different solution. Developing indoor photovoltaics. They are working on a new type of a smart photovoltaic cell capable of working even inside. The research is based on surprising discovery which shows that some solar cells work better when they electrolyte dries out. This is why they call them zombie cells.

These cells are essentially a new type of the so-called Grätzel Cells or the more scientifically sounding dye-sensitized solar cell. In general, they work by capturing light on a dye photosensitized semi-conducting anode after which the dye is regenerated with a liquid electrolyte. But when the electrolyte dries out in a Grätzel Cell it usually stops working. Nonetheless, recently we found out that when the electrolyte of the cells is based on copper it works better after the electrolyte dries out than better.

The discovery was made by accident and we still do not know the mechanism behind this. But the scientists are working on figuring it out and make the technology even better. The newest generation of the zombie cells can work even in artificial lighting inside. Similarly to houseplants, it can adapt and use the most energetic parts of the light spectrum available.

The photovoltaic zombies transform energy with an efficiency of about 30 – 34 percent even if they are just the size of a credit card or a smartphone. Truthfully, they are so efficient that a single zombie cell can get energy equal to a regular battery in a few days.

Marina Freitag from Newcastle University and her coworkers are cooperating with a team led by Alessio Gagliardi from the Technical University of Munich on developing smart zombies. These would be wireless devices with artificial intelligence that can very effectively get energy from indoor lighting. They use this energy highly effectively and help the Internet of Things at the same time.

At this time, zombie cells and smart zombies are only laboratory prototypes. But the scientists are hoping to get them to the commercial market soon. So, maybe we will get zombies in our homes after all.


  • If you like the content I’m producing about science maybe you will like the content I produce about gaming as well! Be sure to check out my other posts!