Improved Efficiency on the Solar Power Horizon
February 5, 2015
Researchers at Stanford University have found a way to augment the output of residential solar panels. By adding an inexpensive material called perovskite to the solar panel, researchers were able to increase the output of the entire unit by about 50%. This particular solar energy technology has been under development since 2009.
A perovskite is a material with a specific crystalline structure, and contain inexpensive materials such as lead, ammonia, and iodine. Researchers discovered that perovskites can convert visible parts of the solar spectrum into electricity more efficiently than silicon. Silicon has an efficiency advantage over perovskites for infrared parts of the spectrum, so combining the two may be the best way to maximize solar panel efficiency.
Because the perovskite coating must be transparent to allow unabsorbed light to be taken in by the silicon cells. Using silicon wires to create a transparent electrode, Stanford researchers were able to collect electricity from the perovskite without compromising the efficiency of the silicon cells.
Perovskite coating will not be available on residential solar panels any time soon, unfortunately. Perovskite is not durable enough to stand up to exposure to heat or water, so its use in residential solar energy systems is not yet practical. Researchers are also looking into ways to manufacture perovskites without lead.
In South Korea, scientists have created a blend of perovskite that is more efficient at converting infrared energy into electricity. The new blend uses an 85:15 mixture of formamidinium and ammonia, which is more stable than using formamidinium alone and more efficient than ammonia alone.
Technology for solar renewable energy is improving at unprecedented rates, and it is only a matter of time before scientists find a way to prevent perovskite coatings from dissolving in water or breaking down in heat. Soon, every home will have residential solar panels providing clean energy and helping repair the planet. See this link for more references.