The shelf-life of solar panels is often a concern for people who are interested in installing the carbon reducing technology onto a property.
However, this worry could soon disappear, as academics at North Carolina State University have developed solar powered cells which have the ability to heal themselves.
The researchers, Orlin Velev and Hyung-Jun Koo, took inspiration from human hands and tree leaves to develop the groundbreaking technology.
They have now created solar cells which have channels that mimic organic vascular systems which have the ability to reinvigorate solar cells which are damaged by ultraviolet degradation.
According to the scientists, solar cells based on organic systems could be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than the silicon solar cells which are used as standard currently.
The newly developed solar cells are a type of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), composed of a water-based gel core, electrodes, and inexpensive, light-sensitive, organic dye molecules that capture light and generate electric current.
While these cells would mean that solar panels would require less replacements if they perform poorly due to age, there is a need to reinvigorate the cells when performance deteriorates.
“Organic material in DSSCs tends to degrade, so we looked to nature to solve the problem,” said Mr Velev.
“We considered how the branched network in a leaf maintains water and nutrient levels throughout the leaf. Our microchannel solar cell design works in a similar way.
"Photovoltaic cells rendered ineffective by high intensities of ultraviolet rays were regenerated by pumping fresh dye into the channels while cycling the exhausted dye out of the cell. This process restores the device’s effectiveness in producing electricity over multiple cycles,” he concluded.
The technology might not be added to solar photovoltaics for a few years yet, but current solar panel technologies still have a 25-year lifespan before they really start to deteriorate. This could save a household a great deal on energy bills for a quarter of a century.