A Material That Could Make Solar Power “Dirt Cheap”  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Technology Review has an article on solar power research at UNSW - A Material That Could Make Solar Power “Dirt Cheap”.

A new type of solar cell, made from a material that is dramatically cheaper to obtain and use than silicon, could generate as much power as today’s commodity solar cells.

Researchers developing the technology say that it could lead to solar panels that cost just 10 to 20 cents per watt. Solar panels now typically cost about 75 cents a watt, and the U.S. Department of Energy says 50 cents per watt will allow solar power to compete with fossil fuel.

In the past, solar researchers have been divided into two camps in their pursuit of cheaper solar power. Some have sought solar cells that can be made very cheaply but that have the downside of being relatively inefficient. Lately, more researchers have focused on developing very high efficiency cells, even if they require more expensive manufacturing techniques.

The new material may make it possible to get the best of both worlds—solar cells that are highly efficient but also cheap to make.

One of the world’s top solar researchers, Martin Green of the University of New South Wales, Australia, says the rapid progress has been surprising. Solar cells that use the material “can be made with very simple and potentially very cheap technology, and the efficiency is rising very dramatically,” he says.

Perovskites have been known for over a century, but no one thought to try them in solar cells until relatively recently. The particular material the researchers are using is very good at absorbing light. While conventional silicon solar panels use materials that are about 180 micrometers thick, the new solar cells use less than one micrometer of material to capture the same amount of sunlight. The pigment is a semiconductor that is also good at transporting the electric charge created when light hits it.

“The material is dirt cheap,” says Michael Grätzel, who is famous within the solar industry for inventing a type of solar cell that bears his name. His group has produced the most efficient perovskite solar cells so far—they convert 15 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity, far more than other cheap-to-make solar cells. Based on its performance so far, and on its known light-conversion properties, researchers say its efficiency could easily rise as high as 20 to 25 percent, which is as good as the record efficiencies (typically achieved in labs) of the most common types of solar cells today. The efficiencies of mass-produced solar cells may be lower. But it makes sense to compare the lab efficiencies of the perovskite cells with the lab records for other materials. Grätzel says that perovskite in solar cells will likely prove to be a “forgiving” material that retains high efficiencies in mass production, since the manufacturing processes are simple.

0 comments

Post a Comment

Ads

Ads

Statistics

Locations of visitors to this page

blogspot visitor
Stat Counter

Total Pageviews

Ads

Books

Followers

News

Loading...

Blog Archive

Labels

australia (583) global warming (366) solar power (339) peak oil (322) electric vehicles (193) renewable energy (185) wind power (173) ocean energy (156) csp (144) geothermal energy (142) smart grids (139) solar thermal power (133) tidal power (133) coal seam gas (127) nuclear power (122) oil (116) lng (112) geothermal power (111) solar pv (111) china (109) iraq (108) energy storage (105) green buildings (104) natural gas (102) agriculture (85) oil price (77) biofuel (76) smart meters (72) wave power (68) electricity grid (63) energy efficiency (63) uk (63) google (55) coal (53) internet (51) surveillance (49) food prices (48) shale gas (48) bicycle (47) big brother (47) thin film solar (41) canada (39) biomimicry (38) ocean power (37) scotland (36) new zealand (35) air transport (34) algae (34) water (34) shale oil (33) queensland (32) credit crunch (31) politics (31) bioplastic (30) concentrating solar power (30) california (29) geoengineering (28) offshore wind power (28) population (28) cogeneration (27) saudi arabia (27) resource wars (26) arctic ice (25) batteries (25) bruce sterling (25) censorship (25) cleantech (25) woodside (25) drought (24) tesla (24) ctl (23) economics (22) carbon tax (20) coal to liquids (20) distributed manufacturing (20) indonesia (20) iraq oil law (20) limits to growth (20) origin energy (20) brightsource (19) buckminster fuller (19) rail transport (19) ultracapacitor (19) santos (18) ausra (17) exxon (17) lithium (17) cellulosic ethanol (16) collapse (16) electric bikes (16) mapping (16) michael klare (16) ucg (16) atlantis (15) bees (15) geodynamics (15) iceland (15) psychology (15) concentrating solar thermal power (14) ethanol (14) fertiliser (14) al gore (13) ambient energy (13) biodiesel (13) brazil (13) carbon emissions (13) cities (13) investment (13) kenya (13) biochar (12) bucky fuller (12) internet of things (12) matthew simmons (12) otec (12) public transport (12) texas (12) victoria (12) chile (11) cradle to cradle (11) desertec (11) energy policy (11) lithium ion batteries (11) terra preta (11) amory lovins (10) fabber (10) gazprom (10) goldman sachs (10) gtl (10) hybrid car (10) severn estuary (10) tinfoil (10) toyota (10) volt (10) alaska (9) biomass (9) carbon trading (9) distributed generation (9) esolar (9) fuel cells (9) jeremy leggett (9) pge (9) sweden (9) afghanistan (8) antarctica (8) arrow energy (8) big oil (8) eroei (8) floating offshore wind power (8) four day week (8) guerilla gardening (8) linc energy (8) methane (8) methane hydrates (8) nanosolar (8) natural gas pipelines (8) pentland firth (8) relocalisation (8) us elections (8) western australia (8) bloom energy (7) boeing (7) chp (7) climategate (7) copenhagen (7) fish (7) stirling engine (7) vinod khosla (7) airborne wind turbines (6) apocaphilia (6) bolivia (6) ceramic fuel cells (6) cigs (6) futurism (6) jatropha (6) local currencies (6) nigeria (6) ocean acidification (6) saul griffith (6) scenario planning (6) somalia (6) t boone pickens (6) space based solar power (5) varanus island (5) garbage (4) kevin kelly (4) low temperature geothermal power (4) oled (4) tim flannery (4) v2g (4) club of rome (3) global energy grid (2) norman borlaug (2) peak oil portfolio (1)