A Korean research team has achieved record level efficiency in solar cells, using a new formula for mixing perovskite structures. Perovskite is an inexpensive, abundant mineral, and the researchers have found ways to make it even more efficient for solar power applications. The new solar cells are measured at 17.9 percent efficiency, which could mean very big things for this clean alternative energy source.
Researchers at the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology and Sungkyunkwan University published their findings in the peer review journal Nature. Their new formula involves mixing ingredients just right, and after much experimentation, they believe they have finally settled on the ideal ratio to achieve maximum efficiency. The resulting material was developed specifically for the creation of a high-performance solar cell.
The cost of solar power technology has been steadily decreasing, but it’s still not as popular as proponents would like it to be. This boost in efficiency makes the alternative source of energy even more attractive, especially if it will be available at the same lower cost as existing solar panels.
Scientists have been working to improve the energy efficiency of silicon solar cells for many years, but have basically reached the limit of that material’s capability. This has spurred the research community to investigate other options, and led to using perovskite in solar cells starting in 2009. At that time, however, perovskite structures didn’t boost efficiency by leaps and bounds.
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The developers still have a lot of work to do before their formula can be applied to commercially-available solar cells. In an ironic twist, perovskite structures are actually water soluble, so there is a serious concern about the lifespan of solar panels using the material. After all, solar panels that cannot endure exposure to weather are pretty much useless. Strangely, perovskite also suffers a drop in efficiency when first exposed to sunlight as well. The research team continues to work on addressing these issues, though, in the hopes that their perovskite structure formula will someday lead to more efficient and affordable solar technology.
Images via University of Oxford Press and Christine via Creative Commons.