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Spray-on perovskite PV cells could slash the cost of solar electricity

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August 17, 2014

Combining the high efficiency and low cost of perovskite with the simplicity of spray-on c...

Combining the high efficiency and low cost of perovskite with the simplicity of spray-on coating could reduce the cost per watt of solar cells (Photo: Lucy Pickford/University of Sheffield)

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Researchers at the University of Sheffield in the UK have created a spray-on solar cell that uses perovskite as the light-absorbing layer. Although the cell's efficiency is only a modest 11 percent, it can be manufactured very cheaply, paving the way for significant reductions in the cost of large-scale solar panel production.

High-efficiency multi-junction solar cells are useful for specialized applications like space probes and satellites, but their complex structures and use of rare, expensive materials makes them impractical for widespread use. When it comes to large-scale energy production, price per watt, rather than efficiency, becomes the fundamental metric. In the context of solar, this means trading off some performance in favor of much cheaper materials and simpler, more streamlined manufacturing.

Solar cells based on perovskites (a family of crystals with a common, distinctive structure) look very promising in this regard, for two main reasons. Firstly, they can be manufactured on the cheap, using widely available materials prepared at low temperatures. And secondly, the technology around them is advancing at an astonishing pace. In a few short years, they have already reached efficiencies in excess of 19 percent, which is competitive with traditional cells based on crystalline silicon.

Now, Prof. David Lidzey and colleagues at the University of Sheffield have managed to create a spray-on solar cell that uses perovskite as the light-absorbing layer. The efficiency of the cell was measured at 11 percent, which is only a fraction of silicon-based cells, however, the combination of perovskite and spray-on technology could cut the price per watt figure considerably, making a compelling case for cheap solar power on a large scale.

Depositing perovskite using spray heads could significantly reduce manufacturing costs (Im...
Depositing perovskite using spray heads could significantly reduce manufacturing costs (Image: Jon Griffin/University of Sheffield)

The researchers had previously used the same spray-painting method to produce organic solar cells, but they say that replacing organic compounds with perovskite as the light-absorbing layer has led to significant efficiency gains. Spray-painting perovskite can streamline the manufacturing process, making it easier to scale production, and also wastes little material.

In the absence of actual production lines and economies of scale, it is nearly impossible to tell how the price per watt of a spray-on perovskite will compare to standard silicon cells, which are energy-intensive to produce. However, given the very rapid pace at which they've been progressing over the past few years, researchers have reason to be optimistic.

"I believe that new thin-film photovoltaic technologies are going to have an important role to play in driving the uptake of solar-energy, and that perovskite based cells are emerging as likely thin-film candidates," says Lidzey.

Source: University of Sheffield

About the Author
Dario Borghino Dario studied software engineering at the Polytechnic University of Turin. When he isn't writing for Gizmag he is usually traveling the world on a whim, working on an AI-guided automated trading system, or chasing his dream to become the next European thumbwrestling champion.   All articles by Dario Borghino
8 Comments

I have been waiting for a long time for reasonable pricing for solar panels hope this will be it.

DGP
18th August, 2014 @ 06:15 am PDT

The dominating cost factor for solar energy is not the cost of the panels anymore, but the cost of installation and maintenance. The lower the efficiency, the more panels you will need to have installed and maintained and that will increase cost.

Skipjack
18th August, 2014 @ 06:43 am PDT

is there maybe a mistake... in a world where 8% is considered great for a solar cell that is not in a special set up their claim of 11% are you sure that is not 1.1%...

[According to the university, it's 11 percent - Ed.]

Jim Sheldon
18th August, 2014 @ 07:01 am PDT

mass produce?? be awesome

make solar compete with NG LNG Nuclear & wind.

On price & see who wins.

Stephen N Russell
18th August, 2014 @ 08:34 am PDT

As solar technology continues to grow the cost of going solar are also dropping. That’s great news for those interested in going solar. They can reduce their monthly electricity costs while gaining annual returns on their investment. You don’t even have to live in a sunny area to gain the benefits. Learn more about how much you can save with solar. http://bit.ly/1heY7sw

EnergySage
18th August, 2014 @ 12:56 pm PDT

Excellent! Spray this stuff on the underside of rooftiles made out of glass and let the solar revolution begin.

Conny Söre
18th August, 2014 @ 01:25 pm PDT

My money is and has been on thin film solar PV technologies. More specifically, Perovskite based ones are looking capable of being up to the task.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
18th August, 2014 @ 01:45 pm PDT

"What's finally knocked the bottom out is this new solar electric paint. Black Power, they call it. It turns sunlight into electricity, just like any solar power converter, but you spray it on. Place your cables and then spray over them. All you need is sunlight and room."

"The Woman in Del Rey Crater" Larry Niven

Gregg Eshelman
18th August, 2014 @ 02:24 pm PDT
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