Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee, are experimenting with the jamun berry – a berry native to South Asia – in an effort  to understand what makes the fruit black. “We extracted the pigment using ethanol and found that anthocyanin was a great absorber of sunlight,” said Soumitra Satapathi, Assistant Professor at IIT-Roorkee. Anthocyanin is also found in blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and cherries.

The dark color of jamun, or syzygium cumini, and the huge quantity of berry trees on IIT campus all suggested the idea that it might be useful as a dye in the typical Dye Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSC) or Gratzel cells. Dye Sensitized Solar Cells are thin film solar cells composed of a porous layer of titanium dioxide coated photoanode, a layer of dye molecules that absorbs sunlight, an electrolyte for regenerating the dye, and a cathode. The team has published the results of their study in the Journal of Photovoltaics.

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The Elliott Research group, Colorado State University.

“The increasing pressure on fossil fuels and concern of global warming has inspired a continuous search for alternate energy,” added Satapathi, Visiting Professor at The University of Massachusetts Lowell in the United States. “Natural pigments are way economical in comparison to regular Ruthenium-based pigments and scientists are optimising to improve the efficiency.”

India is looking to increase its solar-power generation capacity from 10 gigawatts to 100 gigawatts by 2022, aiming to attract $100 billion into the sector during that time. This comes in the framework of tackling the nationwide struggle against power shortages. The country has an ambition to build up a 40% share of non-fossil fuel capacity in the power sector by 2030.

“In principle, we have a large social need for renewable energy especially solar energy. For quite sometime, our lab is actively engaged in low cost high efficiency solar cells production,” Satapathi commented, expressing optimism at their new and potentially game-changing discovery.

This discovery comes inline with governmental and non-governmental efforts to adjust Indian common culture to a lifestyle familiar with renewable energy in hopes of of fixing India’s power problem. In 2016, New Delhi‘s Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute designed and installed tree-like solar panels that can be produce enough energy for five houses, or around five kilowatts, taking up just four square-feet (1.2 square-meters) of land. This is in stark contrast to conventional solar photovoltaic panels which would need to be laid out on 400 square-feet (37 square-meters) produce the same amount of energy.

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