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A dive into underwater solar cells


Our oceans are vast, mostly unexplored and difficult to monitor. Large-scale implementation of a fully autonomous ‘Internet of Underwater Things’ would transform how we collect and share data from this domain; however, deployment is prohibited by the lack of persistent power sources. In principle, underwater solar-energy generation can complement the use of batteries and provide a solution, although dedicated research is needed since traditional silicon solar cells do not perform well underwater due to water’s strong absorption of near-infrared light. In this Perspective we present examples of solar-powered underwater applications and discuss which types of solar-harvesting materials could be appropriate, including GaInP variants, CdTe, organic semiconductors, and perovskite semiconductors. We also discuss challenges that need to be addressed, such as the development of effective antifouling coatings and new certification standards given that underwater conditions are starkly different from those in terrestrial environments.

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Fig. 1: IoUT and available underwater solar power.
Fig. 2: Potential materials of interest.
Fig. 3: Underwater solar cell evaluation—in situ and ex situ.
Fig. 4: Biofouling, consequences, and prevention.


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The authors are grateful for funding from New York University and from the US Department of Energy, Solar Energy Technologies Office under agreement DE-EE0009829.

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Correspondence to Jason A. Röhr or André D. Taylor.

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Röhr, J.A., Sartor, B.E., Lipton, J. et al. A dive into underwater solar cells. Nat. Photon. 17, 747–754 (2023).

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