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