16 April 2018

Solar panels innovation

Solar energy production could take a giant leap forward in the next few years thanks to an encouraging material: Perovskite.

The low yield from photovoltaic panels, which tops out at 25%, remains a major stumbling block to the massive deployment of this technology. This constraint is linked to the physical properties of the traditionally used silicon semi-conductors.

In 2012, new materials in the shape of perovskites gate-crashed the photovoltaic scene. This crystalline material with amazing electronic properties is all set to revolutionize this type of renewable energy production. Researchers from Lausanne’s federal Ecole Polytechnique (EPFL) have recently devised photovoltaic cells combining perovskite and silicon. They increase yields by up to 30–35%, representing a genuine quantum leap. These third generation solar cells are built up layer-by-layer like a multi-decker sandwich, with perovskite as the active layer for capturing the sunlight. Semi-transparent and flexible, this material may replace the windows in our buildings some day.

Although these new generation technologies are still under development, they are already serious contenders for producing low-cost photovoltaic panels.
With their combined optimization of efficiency and cost, they could bring down the price of solar energy by a considerable amount in years to come and contribute to its massive development. Watch this space.

Perovskites are crystalline materials. Their efficiency lies in their good separation of electrical charges and their mobility in the material. Their qualities include good sunlight absorption, the ability to be manipulated in the form of ink for coating large surfaces, and a very moderate manufacturing cost.

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