Future Tech

Efficient. Cheap. Awesome. Here’s Why New Spray-On Solar Cells Matter

Matthew Hughes 06-08-2014

The cost of solar energy What Is Solar Energy And Why Hasn't It Taken Off? What's the big deal with solar energy? If it's really as important and necessary as so many claim it to be, why hasn't it taken over the energy industry yet? Read More is set to drop precipitously after a team of scientists working at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom announced the development of perovskite based solar cells manufactured using a spray-on process.


The photovoltaic cells use a family of naturally-occuring crystal structures called Perovskites.The first demonstration of electricity generation using cells composed of this material was in 2009, and has since been refined and developed multiple times to generate energy more efficiently.

Perovskite based cells could potentially surpass traditional solar cells with respect to the efficiency with which they generate electricity, but with initial costs that are significantly lower than other solar cells.


These new cells are manufactured in a slightly unorthodox approach. The traditional solar cell structure The Energy of The Future, Today: How Do Solar Panels & Heliostats Work? Renewable resources. It’s a problem that we face every day whether we realize it or not. With every pump of a gas handle, with every press of a car’s accelerator, with every plug of our... Read More is used, although the light-absorbing layer of the cell is replaced with spray-painted perovskite.

This significantly reduces wastage during manufacturing, and will be responsible for driving down the costs. The spray-painting process can also be scaled to high-volume manufacturing.


Perovskite also comes with a low materials cost, especially in comparison to traditional silicon based photovoltaic cells.

But are you curious as to how this will impact the world of clean energy? Read on.

What’s Perovskite, and why does it differ to traditional Silicon cells?

Originally discovered in Russia in 1839, and named after the Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski, Perovskite is a species of naturally-occurring minerals that are generally composed of Calcium Titanate.



These minerals are found in abundance throughout the world, including in Europe and the United States. The first demonstration of perovskite-based solar cells was in 2009, but suffered from a number of efficiency related issues, and had to be in a liquid state in order to operate.

Not long after, researchers at the University of Oxford and Pennsylvania refined Perovskite to the point where it could operate in a solid form, and brought it to an efficiency of 16%. Not bad, but still lagging behind silicon cells which have an average efficiency of 25%.

But what really makes Perovskite special isn’t that it’s organically occurring, or that it can be manufactured very cheaply. It’s that it has the potential to be an incredibly efficient material. By some estimations, Perovskite based solar cells will be able to convert as much as 50% of all energy into usable electricity. This is significantly more efficient than any other solar product on the market right now.

How Will This Change The Solar Market?

Solar energy has struggled on two fronts for a while What Is Solar Energy And Why Hasn't It Taken Off? What's the big deal with solar energy? If it's really as important and necessary as so many claim it to be, why hasn't it taken over the energy industry yet? Read More . The first issue is purely economical. Solar panels The Energy of The Future, Today: How Do Solar Panels & Heliostats Work? Renewable resources. It’s a problem that we face every day whether we realize it or not. With every pump of a gas handle, with every press of a car’s accelerator, with every plug of our... Read More are expensive to make, expensive to install and take years to recoup the initial costs.


The latest advances in manufacturing Perovskite solar cells – including the latest spray-on cell method of manufacture – are guaranteed to lower the initial cost of ownership, making investing in solar power a bit more palatable.


The second advantage is with respect to efficiency. Solar cells aren’t the most efficient beasts in the world. And with governments shedding solar subsidies in Europe, solar energy is not really the money spinner it used to be.

To make solar energy an appealing alternative to traditional polluting, non-renewable energy sources, the solar industry had to significantly up its game with respect to how solar cells converts light into electricity.


Perovskite can be developed to potentially become more efficient than current Silicon based cells. Massively so, in fact. It could mean that homeowners who invest in this new generation of solar energy find themselves breaking even earlier than had ever been possible, and potentially without the need for government subsidies.


With lower costs and higher efficiencies, large deployments of these cells can potentially compete with other large-scale power sources, such as coal and natural gas fueled power stations.

Will this change the world of energy?

A Perovskite solar cell is cheap to make. It’ll be highly efficient. And it’s going to be wonderful. But don’t get me wrong, this is a very young technology, and will need years of refinement before it becomes a significant player on the world energy stage Be An Energy Star: 20+ Reddit Tips That Help To Slash Your Utility Bill Is your utility bill killing you? Who would have thought that Reddit is a source of wisdom for saving energy & money? Reddit's crowd wisdom can help you solve everyday problems, like gigantic utility bills. Read More .

But what do you think? Will this spray-on solar technology change the world? Let me know. Comments box is below.

Photo Credits: Calciocarbonatite (John St John)solar panels (Christine)Solar Panels All Done! (Mike Spasoff) 

Related topics: Energy Conservation, Solar Energy.

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  1. Dave
    September 17, 2014 at 3:21 am

    If this stuff can be sprayed on - Tesla motor vehicles could recharge sitting in the car park. Nice. If the building codes of the world can force us to have our powerpoints a set distance from our bath tub surely they can slip something in to say we have to install solar panels on all new buildings... It's a start anyway.

  2. jamieg
    August 8, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    I sense your sarcasm or douchebaggery. It must be due to your naivety.

    • dragonmouth
      August 8, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      Maybe if you took off your tin foil hat, you would know for sure. But then, without your tin foil beanie, you'd be susceptible to government mind control. :P

      • Zachary Moroney
        October 31, 2019 at 6:40 am

        Haha, I agree.

  3. jamieg
    August 6, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    There have been super cheap solar panels for a while but like battery technology, it is heldback to protect big business. I saw a story on a company a few years ago that could make panels for a few dollars but like the EV1 and Jack Nicholsons 1978 hydrogen car, it turned into a unicorn.

    • dragonmouth
      August 7, 2014 at 7:02 pm

      And all that is being blocked and held back by the same people who are holding back the 200 miles per gallon carburator.

    • Zachary Moroney
      October 31, 2019 at 6:39 am

      I'm sorry, that just sounds like some crazy conspiracy theory, if you want to be believed, why don't you come up with some proof, and that way you won't get laughed at so much.

  4. Khaled H
    August 6, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    i like

  5. royboy
    August 6, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Combined with zinc-air batteries, sounds like a winning combination.

    • dragonmouth
      August 6, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      Sounds like a good start but it is far from the solution.

  6. Cynthianna M
    August 6, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    I wish we could afford to have these panels "spray-painted" on our roof today. Just think of how much cleaner our air and water will become once we've kicked the coal/fossil fuel burning habit of electricity generation by manufacturing and installing cheap and efficient solar panels at our homes and businesses. Everyone should invest in green energy today!

    • dragonmouth
      August 6, 2014 at 10:36 pm

      Let's not get carried away just yet. The total world usage of electricity is in 2-3 terawatt range. Of that only about 20 gigawatts come from solar. We need 2 orders of magnitude increase in solar power generation to equal what is produced by all other methods. Perovskite panels give us only a two-fold increase. While every little bit helps, solar power generation is still a boutique application. We would need to pave over every roof in the world with Perovskite panels to replace a significant percentage of fossil-fueled generating plants.

      • Zachary Moroney
        October 31, 2019 at 6:27 am

        I guess that's true, but you could simply cover the sahara desert instead of paving over every house, and you'd have like a terawatt left over.

    • Zachary Moroney
      October 31, 2019 at 6:36 am

      Burning fossil fuels doesn't actually pollute water. Or air really when you think about it. It produces a blend of carbon, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, ( and a few others, but less than 1% so they don't matter) which -after spending some time in the atmosphere- reacts with the oxygen in the atmosphere to make carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas. So it contributes drastically to global warming, but does not pollute. (Or at least so little as to be negligible. )