"Perovskites came out of nowhere in 2009, with an efficiency rating of 3.8 percent, and have since grown in leaps and bounds," said Anita Ho-Baillie, a Senior Research Fellow at the UNSW's Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics. "I think we can get to 24 percent within a year or so."
The solar cells are made from crystals grown into a particular structure called perovskite. Smooth layers of perovskite with large crystal grain sizes allow the cells to absorb more light. The technology has been advancing fast and attracting plenty of attention thanks to its ease of production and low cost compared to silicon cells.
"The diversity of chemical compositions also allows cells be transparent, or made of different colors," said Ho-Baillie. "Imagine being able to cover every surface of buildings, devices and cars with solar cells."
Perovskite cells do have downsides like much less durability, something Ho-Baillie and her team say they're confident they can improve, while also shooting for higher levels of efficiency
Perovskite is a development stage technology that is likely to play an important role in the future of solar cells but it could be a decade before it reaches commercial utility. The primary argument supporting perovskite is the relative cost of producing the crystals versus the panels used today. That enhances the technology’s competitiveness so that cells do not need to be as efficient because they are so much cheaper. However what do need to be overcome are the issues described above regarding durability which are non-trivial.
There were also some interesting announcements in the battery sector over the last few weeks. Privately held Huawei announced a new battery, employing graphene, that reduces the temperature at which batteries operate so they can perform in more rugged environments and charge much quicker.
It’s no exaggeration that Moore’s Law has increasingly been employed to the energy sector with technology taking the place of extractive resources. While individual advances only the nudge innovation forward in small spurts the trend is towards a future with abundant energy from a much more varied mix of sources.Back to top