Put away the Bunsen burner and bring biomimicry into chemistry class with this nature-inspired lab, available in English and Spanish.

Edit Hook

Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC) are solar cells inspired by photosynthesizing plants. They have many advantages over conventional silicon solar cells, which require energy intensive processes to create. DSSCs are generally considered much more environmentally benign to produce than conventional solar cells because they use relatively non-toxic materials that require little energy to manufacture. In this lesson plan, students learn how to produce electricity by constructing a dye-sensitized solar cell at ambient temperatures, using a few simple materials. The lab offers an excellent hands-on illustration of a biomimetic technology and has been used successfully with students in upper elementary grades to undergraduates in college.

Lesson plans for the lab are provided in both English and Spanish geared toward high schoolers in 10th-12th grade, and home schoolers in upper elementary grades through high school. Lab kits containing everything you need may be ordered from the Institute for Chemical Education.

Lab procedure video

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Additional Resources

Background reading: “Solar panels pose an environmental hazard, claims report”

Lab Instructions in Other Languages: Lab instructions are available in English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese from Sol Ideas.

Content Standards: A chart highlighting how this lab activity meets the National Science Education Content Standards (1996) for grades K-12.

Edit Summary

Objectives

  • Students will have a concrete example and hands-on activity illustrating a nature-inspired technology highly relevant to today’s technological challenges.

  • Students will understand differences between silicon-based and dye-sensitized solar
    cells.

  • Students will see first-hand how solar energy can be converted into electrical energy
    using solar cells.

  • Students will feel empowered to construct their own dye-sensitized cells out of
    basic materials.

Edit Objectives