environment

New Generation of Solar Cells At One Fifth The Cost

Scientists from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have developed a solar panel material that is one fifth the cost of the current commercial equivalent.

Results also show that the new material is more efficient – at 20.2% – then its other two, more expensive rivals. And because the composite is easily modified, it will likely be a blueprint for a new generation of low cost solar cells.

solar-panels-cells

Stock image of solar panels. Image credit: WRNC

A promising area in photovoltaic solar cell development harnesses films made from perovskites –  a material with the same type of crystal structure as calcium titanium oxide. Perovskite-based cells are of huge interest to the academic community because their operational methods are new, and there has been a meteoric rise in power conversion efficiency compared to other technologies in a relatively short time period (as shown in the graph).

Perovskites-efficiency-time-graph

Image credit: ossilla.com

A key part of perovskite-based solar cells is the hole transporting layer. Currently there are two types of hole transporting materials commercially available – both are quite costly to synthesize, adding to the overall expense of the cell.

To solve this problem, EPFL scientists developed a molecularly engineered hole transporting material, called FDT, that brings costs down substantially. Subsequently, the cost of the material is about one fifth that of existing materials and power conversion efficiency was 20.2% – better than both of its more expensive competitors.

“The best performing perovskite solar cells use hole transporting materials, which are difficult to make and purify, and are prohibitively expensive, costing over €300 per gram preventing market penetration,”said Mohammad Nazeeruddin who’s lead-author of a study published in the journal Nature Energy.

“By comparison, FDT is easy to synthesize and purify, and its cost is estimated to be a fifth of that for existing materials — while matching, and even surpassing their performance.”

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