Friday, 16 August 2013

New research suggests perovskite as cheaper replacement for silicon- based solar panels

New research suggests perovskite
as cheaper replacement for silicon-
based solar panels
(Phys.org) —Researchers at Oxford
Photovoltaics and other companies
investigating the use of perovskite—a
crystalline organometal—as a
replacement for silicon in
photovoltaic cells have created
prototypes that are approximately 15
percent efficient. But this is
apparently just the beginning. Kevin
Bullis suggests in an article published
this week in MIT Technology Review ,
that researchers are predicting
efficiencies as high as 25 percent
very soon, putting the material on a
par with silicon.
Simply meeting the same efficiency
levels as silicon isn't a big deal of
course, other materials have been
found that are capable of doing so as
well, what's newsworthy here is that
using perovskite to make solar cells
would be far cheaper. Not only is it
more readily available, but it doesn't
require as much production cost.
Also, cells that use it would require
far less material. Silicon cells, for
example, typically wind up
approximately 180 micrometers thick.
A comparable cell made using
perovskite on the other hand would
be just 1 micrometer thick.
Perovskite isn't some newly
discovered material—scientists have
known about it for over 170 years.
What's new is that researchers are
only now beginning to fully realize its
potential as a material for use in
solar cell technology. It was only in
2009 that researchers first thought of
using the semiconductor in such cells
—initial testing indicated that it was
only 3.5 percent efficient. Worse, it
didn't hold up for very long when
used. But since that time,
researchers have figured out how to
make it last longer and have
continuously improved its efficiency
to boot.
Current prototypes are made using a
process that involves spraying the
material on a base, which means the
material is far more versatile than
silicon as well. But what really has
researchers exited are expectations
for creating solar panels far more
cheaply than can be done today—
estimates suggest they could cost just
10 to 20 cents per watt, as compared
to 75 cents per watt for traditional
silicon based panels—fossil fuels cost
an average of 50 cents per watts,
suggesting that the use of perovskite
could cause a dramatic shift to solar
power in the future if its efficiency
can be improved as researchers
hope.
More information: Oxford
Photovoltaics: http://
www.oxfordpv.com/photovoltaic-cell-
technology.html

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