Thursday, April 19, 2018

A look at the next generation of solar power technology

Scientists are working on an exciting new material called perovskite – a light sensitive crystal which could revolutionise solar power.

In just a few years its power conversion efficiency figure is nearly on a par with traditional silicon at around 22 per cent, and it’s some 1,000 times thinner.

All this could mean the price we pay for solar power in the future could fall considerably.

These third generation solar cells are built-up layer by layer, like a sandwich, with perovskite as the light-harvesting active layer.

It is semi-transparent, meaning a building’s windows could one day be replaced by coloured plates of perovskite, that would also generate electricity.

Experiments on the solar cells are taking place in the Ecole Polytechnique Federale Lausanne as part of the EU’s GOTSolar research project. Directing research there is Professor Michael Grätzel.

He says: “What is surprising about perovskites is that they’re made from a solution with simple procedures and from materials which are readily available and we’re seeing performance results which today are already ahead of silicon polycrystals.

“The caveat is the lead, of course, we must be careful we manage this weakness properly. But otherwise, it really is an extraordinary material, which will forge its own path.”

To get around the lead, scientists coat the solar cells in protective glass. This also solves one of the other problems – perovskites are very sensitive to humidity, and the glass protects them from moisture.

The final layer of the solar cell is gold, which acts as an electrode.

Keep reading on EuroNews.com

 

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