Is it possible to generate clean energy from wine processing waste? Today, it is indeed. The innovation is a result of the partnership between Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and Serena Wines 1881 – among the top-5 Italian producers of prosecco – which teamed up in a biennial research project based upon a joint patent.
Ca’ Foscari President Michele Bugliesi and the Director of the Conegliano (Treviso)-based company, Giorgio Serena, have signed an agreement for the in-lab development of new generation PV cells that will exploit the natural dyes of the lees – the waste product of winemaking and clarification.
In the eyes of Bugliesi, the operation is “A significant example of the impact that the corporate-scientific research collaboration may have in terms of technological progress, innovation of economic processes, and production systems”.
The method patented by Ca’ Foscari and Serena Wines 1881 is the first ever in which the dye to use in the ‘Grätzel cells’ is extracted from a waste product. In the innovative PV cells, the dyes capture sunlight and transfer electrons to a semiconductor, mimicking plant photosynthesis.
The research activity is performed at the labs of the Science Campus of Ca’ Foscari in Mestre (Venice), equipped with state-of-the-art devices on which the university is investing 3 million euros in the 2018-2020 triennium, aiming to be a place of gathering and contamination for research and development purposes, open to any cooperation. Studies behind the patent will take place, in particular, at labs specialized in photocatalytic processes and renewable energy, boasting the tools for design, synthesis, and investigation of functional inorganic nanomaterials.