18 March 2015

Researchers illuminate the way to low cost solar energy

Near-Infrared oven on SPECIFIC's pilot line

In a paper published today, SPECIFIC researchers show that their new production method uses a short burst of near-infrared radiation – which is infrared radiation closest in wavelength to visible light – to stimulate the growth of perovskite crystals, the active ingredient that converts the sun’s rays to electricity.

Lead scientist Joel Troughton said “Every day we get enough energy from the sun to power our planet for 27 years. If we could capture just a fraction of that, we could solve the energy crisis. Perovskites are the subject of intense research at the moment because they are low cost and highly efficient at converting the sun’s light into electricity, even in low-light countries like the UK”

Dr Trystan Watson added “The silicon solar cells that you see on roofs up and down the country now reach about 25% efficiency and they’ve improved from about 23% a decade ago. By contrast, the efficiency of perovskite cells has leapt from 5% to 17% in just two years.

“They are much lower cost than silicon cells too, so the sooner perovskite cells can be commercialised the sooner we’ll all benefit from low cost solar energy. For that to happen they need to be quick and cheap to manufacture – that’s why this work to remove a major processing bottleneck is so important.”

Until now the perovskite has been crystallised in a conventional oven at 100°C, which takes up to 90 minutes and consumes vast amounts of power, making the cost of manufacture too high to be commercially acceptable.

The work was published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A by the Royal Society of Chemistry. It was undertaken at the SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre, which is a consortium of Swansea University, Tata Steel, BASF and NSG Pilkington and is funded by EPSRC, Innovate UK and the Welsh Government, and supported by the Welsh Government’s Sêr Cymru Solar programme.

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