Solar Cell Breakthrough: The Next Generation

How’s this for sweetening the solar energy pot: Go solar, at one-fifth of the typical cost. Sounds good, right? Thanks to scientists at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), that elevator pitch could soon become the norm.

The operative word here is “perovskite.” For solar energy researchers it’s a dream substance—an organic/inorganic hybrid able to convert up to 15 percent of sunlight into electricity (only slightly below existing standards) at a fraction of the price. Scientists already knew perovskite was particularly adept at low-cost solar energy conversion, but they never knew why, according to Phys.org.

Now they do.

Sum Tze Chien, the assistant professor who led the research, says “the electrons generated in the material by sunlight can travel quite far. This will allow us to make thicker solar cells which absorb more light and in turn generate more electricity.” The researchers’ recent discovery will allow them to optimize the process for making perovskite-based solar panels and compete head-to-head with industry-standard, thin-film solar cells, which have efficiencies of 20 percent. The research paper titled “Perovskite-Based Solar Cells” describing the breakthrough was published in the journal Science on Oct. 18.

Researchers are already developing a commercial prototype in collaboration with Australian cleantech firm Dyesol Limited (ASX: DYE), which could be complete in a few years, they say. Dyesol is the leading supplier of the materials for the next generation technology known as dye solar cell technology (artificial photosynthesis.)  In September, it was reported that Saudi Arabian industrial giant Tasnee is considering a follow on  strategic investment of $16 million in Dyesol, after investing $4 million in February.

Sum’s colleague, Dr. Nripan Mathews, who also heads research and development efforts for the Singapore-Berkeley Research Initiative for Sustainable Energy “NRF CREATE” program, calls the discovery a coup for clean energy investment. “The excellent properties of these materials, allow us to make light weight, flexible solar cells on plastic using cheap processes without sacrificing the good sunlight conversion efficiency,” he tells Phys.org.

To read the Science research paper cited in this story, click here

To read the Phys.org article cited in this story, click here

 

 

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