updated 7/7/2010 10:21:13 AM ET 2010-07-07T14:21:13

Those blue jeans you're wearing aren't just for fashion anymore.

Researchers at Cornell University have discovered a way to use the molecules typically found in blue jean dyes to make an organic, flexible framework that researchers hope to translate to better solar cells.

Today's solar cells are mostly made from silicon, but they can be heavy, inflexible and inefficient.

The researchers organized the dye molecules into a "covalent organic framework," or COF, a bonded material that's incredibly light, porous and strong.

The approach takes time for the right molecules to "grow."

"The whole system is constantly forming wrong structures alongside the correct one, but the correct structure is the most stable, so eventually, the more perfect structures end up dominating," William Dichtel, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell, told ScienceBlog.

The research is published in the journal Nature Chemistry.

The process used an acid catalyst to reorder the molecules into a two-dimensional sheet. The sheets were then stacked on top of each other to make a crosshatched framework pathway to conduct the electrical charge.

The scientists used phthalocyanine, a molecule used to make blue and green dyes in plastics and jeans.

The structure by itself is not a solar cell, but it is a model that will significantly broaden the scope of materials that can be used in COFs, Dichtel told ScienceBlog.

The next step is to begin testing ways of filling the crosshatched framework with other organic molecules that could lead to a flexible, lightweight material for solar cells.

Copyright © 2010 Discovery Communications, LLC. The leading global real world media and entertainment company.


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