An alternative to silicon could provide cheaper solar energy

Solar scientists have discovered that perovskite cells could reduce costs significantly within the solar market. The solar industry continues to become more efficient and cost-effective throughout the last few years. Researchers, however, believe the family of crystals, perovskites can outperform current solar materials in the ability to absorb the sun’s power effectively. Whilst it is very promising for the solar industry there are certain challenges that need to be overcome before introducing the development into the wider market. As the crystals dissolve relatively easily, they are unable to handle humid environments and must be protected from moisture with sealed glass plates. Scientists have created pilot projects with perovskite cells on a small scale but as of yet are unable to replicate the efficient results on larger cell areas.

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Figure: The efficient material perovskite could transform the solar market


Scientists believe the main challenge is the stability of perovskites in comparison to silicon. It will take further research and development to scale and introduce the material into the wider market. A subsidiary business of Oxford University, Oxford PV has developed a pilot facility for perovskite solar cells in Germany.

A further challenge for the wider development of perovskites is matching the level of funding that is diverted into silicon research. The dominance of the silicon market will make it difficult at present for perovskite to compete fairly. One possible compromise is integrating both materials to create a more efficient solar product. Regarded as ‘tandem solar cells’ the new material would include a layer of perovskite laid on top of the traditional silicon material. The perovskite cell would capture some wavelengths in the visible spectrum of light and allow other wavelengths to pass through and be captured by the silicon cell lying underside. Tandem cells could be a viable option for this new material to compete within a relatively dominated silicon market.

Combining the cost and efficiency benefits of perovskite with the silicon market could transform the solar industry worldwide. Perovskite crystals can be developed fairly low temperatures, unlike silicon which requires much larger amounts of heat create a layer.

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