Breakthrough Solar Cell Material

A novel material for solar cells has been developed that generates almost as much power as today’s thin-film solar cells but which is far cheaper to produce.

The research, carried out at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, should enable future solar panels to be more efficient as well as being far more affordable for consumers around the world.

The next-generation solar cell is made from a hybrid material combining organic and inorganic materials and is about five times cheaper than current solar cells. This is a result of a simpler manufacturing process. The base material used is a mineral called perovskite. This mineral was already known to convert up to 15% of sunlight to electricity (comparable to current solar cell efficiency). Scientists have now found out how and this opens the door to new applications in design.

In the perovskite, electrons generated by incoming sunlight travel relatively far. This means that solar cells can be thicker, allowing them to absorb more light and therefore generate more electricity. The researchers  state that lightweight and flexible solar cells built on plastic substrates and using the cheap manufacturing process are now a very real possibility. Better yet, these new power plants keep solar efficiency at levels that the industry is used to.

This knowledge gives creative professionals new freedom in designing with solar cells. Flexible energy generators could be used in wearable textiles and curved panels on façades, vehicles and more. An added bonus for design work is that the manufacturing process allows various colours on translucent substrates, in particular red and yellow. Soon we could be charging our smart phones through brightly coloured high-tech jackets, and be using coloured solar glass in designs.

More information on the new solar cell material here.

Image credits: Nanyang Technological University

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