Photovoltaic (PV) cells made from mono- or polycrystalline silicon have been the standard operating system of solar panels since the Carter administration installed them on the roof of the White House nearly 40 years ago. While the technology has improved over time, PV cells are still only able convert about 20% of the energy they take in to usable energy for residential or commercial consumption. However, 2019 may be the year all of this starts to change.
New advancements in perovskite-based solar cells promise more efficiency and lower production costs than their current counterparts. While they’re not yet widely available for public use, multiple companies researching the product have seen dramatic improvements in perovskite solar cells which could position them as the solar power of the future. This week, we’re looking into the study of these cells and how they could reshape the landscape of the solar industry.
What are Perovskite Solar Cells?
Although they’ve been around for about a decade, perovskite solar cells are just now pushing to the forefront of photovoltaics. Perovskite actually refers to a synthetic material which imitates the properties of its naturally occurring counterpart of the same name. Instead of the silicon used in traditional PV cells, perovskite cells use a hybrid organic-inorganic lead or tin halide-based material to make up the active light-harvesting layer.
When Japanese researchers first started studying how perovskite could be used in solar cells in 2009, the resulting cells weren’t very efficient and lacked the stability necessary to be manufactured on a large scale. In the years since, the technology has steadily improved to the point that Oxford PV—a British startup working with specialists from Oxford University—is hoping to produce cells capable of reaching conversion efficiencies of 37%, a number that’s markedly higher than the PV cells currently on the market. In fact, the same company recently set a world record for the solar-electronic conversion efficiency of its perovskite cells, outperforming the previous record set by a traditional silicon-based cell.
Pros and Cons of Perovskite Solar Cells
Apart from increased conversion efficiency, there are plenty of other benefits to exploring perovskite solar cell options. As we mentioned, they’re much cheaper to manufacture than silicon-based PV cells. They are also easier to produce because plants which make them require less space to do so and the cells themselves require fewer materials than silicone models, most of which are both inexpensive and plentiful. Because perovskite cells can be painted or sprayed onto a number of different surfaces, some scientists are already musing about a future in which homes could come complete with exterior walls covered in perovskite solar technology. Unfortunately, the science behind perovskite cells isn’t that far—yet.
Current research shows that perovskite cells are not very weather resistant and have a tendency to disintegrate rather quickly. Scientists will have to solve durability issues before the technology can hit a mass market. On a positive note, researchers state that improvements in the technology have outpaced solar options of the past, so they are excited at the possibilities perovskite solar cells can offer in the future.
Since there’s no telling when perovskite cells will hit the market, save on your energy bills in the meantime by investing in a residential solar panel system. If you’re ready to give renewable energy a shot, call J-Tech Solar to start your journey today!