Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department

Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Malkiat Johal

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© 2011 Erika S. Falsgraf


This project employs the biological compounds hemin, melanin, and retinoic acid as photoactive dyes in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). These dyes are environmentally and economically superior to the standard ruthenium-based dyes currently used in DSSCs because they are nontoxic and widely available. Characterization by linear sweep voltammetry yielded averaged maximum overall conversion efficiency values of 0.059% for retinoic acid, 0.023% for melanin, and 0.015% for hemin. Absorption spectra of hemin and retinoic acid suggest that they would complement each other well when used in tandem in one cell because hemin has a secondary maximum absorption peak at 613nm and retinoic acid has maximum absorption at 352nm. Cells made with hemin or melanin performed better with the use of lower temperatures to seal the cells, and hemin cells performed exceptionally well with exclusion of the sealing procedure. These biologically-derived cells have the potential to advance the development of inexpensive and safer solar energy sources, which promise to serve as clean energy sources in the near future.