A team of researchers at the University of Sheffield in the UK have found a way to make a spray-on solar cell, which has perovskite as the light-absorbing layer. This new cell’s efficiency is only 11 percent, but it can be produced very cheaply, which could be the first step forward in large scale production of affordable solar panels.
Perovskites are a family of crystals that have a common, distinctive structure and their use for manufacturing solar panels shows promise. Such solar panels are cheap to make, and these crystals can be made from widely available materials and created at low temperatures. Also, the technology around them is advancing very fast. In the last few years, these solar cells have reached efficiencies of more than 19 percent, making them able to compete with the cells based on crystalline silicon, which are currently the most widespread.
The spray-on solar cell that uses perovskite as the light-absorbing layer created by the University of Sheffield researchers is only a fraction as efficient as silicon-based cells, but the method of their manufacture would cut the price per watt figure considerably. When it comes to large scale power production, the price per watt rather than efficiency might actually be the better indicator of which method of energy production is better.
In the past, the researchers had used this same spray-painting method to manufacture organic solar cells. Now they are certain that replacing the organic compounds they used then with perovskite as the light-absorbing layer has increased the efficiency of the cells considerably. The spray-on method of adding the perovskite also streamlines the production process, making it easier to scale production, and to avoid material waste.
At this point in time, with no production lines or economies of scale in place, it is still too early to tell whether such spray-on perovskite are better that traditional silicon cells. But given the energy-intensive method of silicone cell production, coupled with the rapid development in the area of perovskite solar cells there is good reason to believe cheaper solar cells could be on the horizon. This would, of course, make them more attractive to end users.