You may have seen perovskite in the news lately – our industry is excited about this mineral that can evolve solar panels, but how?
The recent revelation that has hit headlines is that perovskite can dramatically increase the efficiency of solar panels. Standard silicon panels produce energy at 22% but mixing in perovskite has been calculated to increase efficiency to 32%. ‘Fossil fuels are toast’ claims CleanTechnica, and it could be that this development will be enough to get us there.
Essentially, more power can be generated from the same area of panels, but there are many more potential benefits, below.
What is perovskite?
Calcium Titanium Oxide (CaTiO3), otherwise known as perovskite, is a naturally occurring mineral first discovered in Russia in the 19th century and named after the man who discovered it.
Although we’ve known about perovskite’s existence for some time, it’s only been in the last few years that its potential has been recognised. Developers of solar energy technology have discovered how it can absorb light more efficiently than silicon, and that it has enhanced properties as a semiconductor. Compared to silicon, perovskite can produce more power and is potentially easier to deploy.
Silicon is expensive to mine and purify. Perovskite, in contrast, can be lab- synthesised quite cheaply, with no mining and exporting involved to add to the carbon footprint. One research facility is even looking at using calcium recycled from waste duck eggshells.
What does perovskite mean for solar power?
Perovskite has other advantages. When perovskite is made into a solution it can be sprayed or painted onto surfaces. This thin coating is being used on glass but could be printed onto plastic, allowing the panels to be flexible. Panels using perovskite instead of silicon can be ultrathin and lightweight. Scientists are also exploring the benefits of ‘painting’ it onto different metals instead of glass and findings so far indicate much more energy can be produced. Potentially, this opens up many more possible places where solar modules could be used – on road or sea freight, perhaps?
The two main problems the industry is currently seeking to solve are: consistency with the structure of the material; and its durability. One way to help with both these issues has been mixing perovskite with silicon and using it under glass. Standard silicon panels produce energy at 22% but mixing in perovskite has been calculated to dramatically increase efficiency to 32%.
Research is continuing all over the world. UK, US, and German companies are still developing the technology. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is also investing heavily.
Perovskite is likely to stay in the news, as improvements in the way it is synthesised and stored before use continues to be refined, increasing its uniformity of composition and its durability. Research at the University of Sheffield could help make the manufacturing process more efficient and create less waste.
When will perovskite solar modules be available?
Olympus Power is watching as the development of perovskite solar continues, as we expect to see it used for future use on an industrial scale. It is exciting to think that thinner and possibly malleable panels, at a much lower cost and more friendly to the environment, will become available, and what this will mean for different sectors of the industry we work with. Watch this space as we hope to be one of the first to bring this exciting new solar technology to you. Want solar for your business now? Then take a look at our commercial solar options