Test Cell of the PSC. Credit: Segawa Laboratory at the University of Tokyo
How exciting would it be to spray or print solar cells on the windows of skyscrapers or don it atop on sports utility vehicles? The spray-on solar PV concept is not far-fetched, as solar researchers and company executives feel that there is a good chance the economics of the $42 billion industry would soon be disrupted by perovskites. The material can be used to harvest light when turned into a crystalline structure, and at prices that are potentially cheaper than the silicon-based panels used today.
It is being hoped that perovskites can be mixed into liquid solutions and placed on a range of surfaces. This could significantly expand solar energy applications. Meanwhile, a British company is aiming to have a thin-film perovskite solar cell commercially available by the end of 2018.
Hiroshi Segawa, Professor at the University of Tokyo and lead researcher of a five-year project funded by the Japanese government that groups together universities and companies like Fujifilm Corp. and Panasonic Corp. to develop perovskite technology said that this development would be the front-runner of low-cost solar cell technologies. In fact, the World Economic Forum also reportedly picked the wonder material as one of its top 10 emerging technologies of 2016.
The material’s usefulness was highlighted by Tsutomu Miyasaka, Professor at Toin University of Yokohama, back in 2006. The structure of the material was not reportedly understood, but things began to change with the first research publication on perovskite by Miyasaka’s team in the Journal of the American Chemical Society in 2009.
The material had a big breakthrough in 2012 with its conversion efficiency. And, in December, engineers at Green’s University of New South Wales reportedly achieved a milestone of 12.1% efficiency rating on a cell measuring 16 square centimetres. And, researchers at the Stanford University and the University of Oxford reported that their technology had obtained 20.3% efficiency. Amidst challenges, it would probably take around five years for the technology to be marketable, certified, and tested.