NGRE has been keeping a close eye on recent news featuring perovskite. You might never have heard of it, but you will soon, as it is being heralded as the future of solar PV, set to provide the world with high-performance, low-cost renewable energy.
What is Perovskite?
Perovskite is a naturally occurring mineral which can be used to produce a solar conversion layer in a solar cell.
What’s the Big Fuss?
Perovskite has been causing excitement in the solar energy industry because it is able to harvest energy from a greater range of the light spectrum compared with silicon, the mainstream solar conversion material, and thus convert more of the sun’s energy into electricity.
However, while perovskite-only solar cells have proved problematic outside the lab, researchers discovered that by adding a thin layer of perovskite on top of a silicon layer, in what is called a ‘tandem’ solar cell, they were able to significantly boost the performance of the cell.
A look at the news will show efficiency records consistently smashed in recent months by perovskite-silicon tandem cells.
In May, Oxford PV, a spin-out from the University of Oxford and pioneer in the field of next-generation cells, set a new world record for the efficiency of a commercial-sized solar cell of 28.6% with their perovskite-on-silicon technology. Oxford PV is now targeting more than 30% efficiency.
Also in May, an energy conversion world record for a perovskite-silicon cell of 33.7% was achieved by engineers at the KAUST Solar Centre in Saudi Arabia but this time at a small, research-sized scale in lab conditions.
Compare these figures with many commercially available silicon-only solar cells that have an efficiency rating of around 22% and you can understand the excitement.
Game-changer – Super PV
Managing Director of NGRE, Greg Bishop, said: “We take a keen interest in the latest innovations in green technology and right now there’s huge interest in perovskite. If all goes to plan, and it delivers on its promise, it will be a game changer, super PV if you will.
“The efficiency of a solar cell, its ability to convert as much as the sun’s light energy as possible into electricity is key. For the same space available, these perovskite-silicon cells have the potential to generate substantially more electricity than comparably-sized silicon-only cells.”
He added: “When these cells are available within commercially available solar panels, it will mean solar energy being available to many more people, to those on smaller budgets and homes with smaller roof spaces and provide a tremendous boost to net zero ambitions.”
Abundant and Cheap to Manufacture
The raw materials for producing perovskite cells are cheap and abundant, the perovskite film used is much thinner than the silicon equivalent and so uses less material and it doesn’t require such high temperatures to process, cutting down on production costs. Some experts estimate production could be one twentieth of traditional solar cells.
Experts say, perovskite-only cells are the endgame, but that more work needs to be done to improve their commercial viability, such as increasing their real-world durability.
Some companies are confident, however, that their perovskite-silicon tandem cells are ready for production now.
Oxford PV, which has an R&D centre in Oxford, is ramping up production of its commercial-sized perovskite-on-silicon cells at its facility near Berlin, Germany, and says it will soon be starting to deliver them to its solar panel manufacturing partners for integration into solar panels.
And last month, a start-up in China, Renshine Solar, announced that it planned to begin production of their perovskite cells.
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