JD Ross: Innovative Solar Technology - The Future for the Renewable Energy Market?

Creating an efficient alternative to silicon

A recent study involved the discovery of a highly efficient new material referred to as tandem perovskite, which is being viewed as a potential solution to the global energy crisis.

In partnership with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab and the University of Colorado, the University of Toledo believe the new material will be launched in full-scale solar panels in the very near future. In this scenario, Perovskites would replace silicon, the standard choice for solar cells. Dr Yan from the University of Toledo explains that his team are developing highly efficient, low-cost solar cells that could really support global energy challenges. A report published in the journal Science explains how his team has created an advanced material that maximises efficiency levels to a current figure of 23%, higher than the market average of 18% for silicon solar panels.

Yan and his research team have spent years working on creating a perovskite tandem solar cell that combines two varied cells, increasing the total energy generated by utilising two different sections of the sun’s spectrum. In the last month, the US Department of Energy provided over $1 million in funding to enable Yan to continue developing his product in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Lab. Yan highlights that the solar industry is excited by the prospect of the product and some are already investing into the technology. The tandem solar cells, combined with two layers of perovskites can generate high energy conversion efficiency and potentially reduce the costs associated with solar panels.

Advanced 3D Solar Technology

Elsewhere, researchers in the UK have designed an innovative 3D technology capable of eradicating the manufacturing stages required by conventional solar PV modules.

Researchers have launched an innovative 3D solar cell design with a brand new system that could potentially drive down the costs of PV cell manufacturing and possibly transform the future of renewable energy according to UK scientists.

Scientists at the University of Sheffield, along with energy technology business Power Roll have created a unique system involving a surface consisting of micro-grooves improving the efficiency of solar energy. The 3D design potentially removes many of the manufacturing stages that conventional PV modules need to proceed through and enable new materials to be utilised in solar cells.

Professors at the University of Sheffield highlight that there is worldwide interest in utilising solar cells to produce low carbon, green energy. Scientists explain that the new system can reduce optical losses within PV equipment, offering an efficient alternative to conventional solar modules. The new modules have proven to show that 7% of the sunlight hitting an individual PV micro-groove system is directly converted to electrical energy, which is approximately 30% of what the highest performing and costly solar cells produce today.

UK company, Power Roll suggests that solar modules designed in this manner will weigh significantly less than the equivalent solar modules used today, benefiting many regions and off-grid locations where it is currently not viable to transport large, heavy solar panels and other equipment. Other benefits of the innovative design include the elimination of expensive conductive oxides, the use of low-cost electrical interconnections and the potential to tune electrical equipment to match the requirements of the user.

Scientists at Power Roll explain that over the years, most solar cells have used a traditional flat structure, where layers of various materials are integrated with each other to form the solar cell. This new technology utilises a different design using a surface consisting of tiny microgrooves. Neil Spann, CEO of Power Roll believes the new design has the ability to transform the solar market. Spann refers to the opportunities including off-grid solutions, supporting commercial and domestic systems and powering potential for other applications. Span believes the technology can generate considerable economic and social benefits to customers worldwide.

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