Solar energy, for many, is revolutionary. Yet, for those who work in the industry, there is always room for improvement.
The solar panels could be cheaper to produce. They could be more efficient, producing more power. And they could be more sustainable.
Well now, Oxford PV, a startup working in tandem with Oxford University, received $3 million from the U.K. government to develop a new technology, which uses a new kind of material to make solar cells. It’s called a perovskite cell and it uses hybrid organic-inorganic lead or tin halide-based material as the light-harvesting active layer. Perovskite has already achieved some notice as it can be infused into many materials, from curtains to clothing.
Now, with work form Oxford PV and a company called Swift Solar which raised $7 million to bring perovskite to market, the efficiency has gotten even better.
The conversion efficiencies are now much higher than existing polycrystalline photovoltaic or thin-film solar cells – at 37 percent. And while ne technologies have been discussed in the past, as with many things, cost is always a concern. However, with perovskite, not so much.
“Perovskite has let us truly rethink what we can do with the silicon-based solar panels we see on roofs today. Another aspect that really excites me: how cheaply these can be made. These thin crystalline films are made by mixing two inexpensive readily abundant salts to make an ink that can be deposited in many different ways… This means that perovskite solar panels could cost less than half of their silicon counterparts,” explained Sam Stranks, the lead scientific advisor and one of the co-founders of Swift Solar, in a Ted Talk.
For Oxford PV’s CTP Chris Case, that’s exciting news. Not only has his company set a leading efficiency mark 4 percent higher than before, as he explains, “Today, commercial-sized perovskite-on-silicon tandem solar cells are in production at our pilot line and we are optimizing equipment and processes in preparation for commercial deployment.”
What perovskite can do remains to be seen. What we do know is that in time the technology only seems to be improving and redefining what we know is possible with solar energy.
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