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UK scientists develop spray-on solar energy cells

Solar energy cells that are sprayed like paint could cut the cost of solar electricity, and accelerate the growth of renewable energy
  • @zdboren

Perovskite solar cells, considered one of the major scientific breakthroughs of recent years, could be made available in a spray can after the product was developed by scientists at the University of Sheffield.

This means that solar cells could be applied to almost anything; an electric car could generate energy from its coat of perovskite solar paint.

The term perovskite refers to a particular mineral crystal structure; a cross between an organic compound and metal.

These solar cells, their generation capability first demonstrated in 2012, are both cheaper and better for the environment than the silicon based alternative that dominates the industry.

The project’s lead researcher Professor David Lidzey said: “There is a lot of excitement around perovskite based photovoltaics.

“Remarkably, this class of material offers the potential to combine the high performance of mature solar cell technologies with the low embedded energy costs of production of organic photovoltaics.”

At 19 per cent efficiency, perovskite cells are almost twice as efficient as organic solar cells, but are 6 per cent less than conventional silicon cells.

“Using a perovskite absorber instead of an organic absorber gives a significant boost in terms of efficiency,” said Lidzey.

Alan South, Chief Innovation Officer at SolarCentury, one of the UK’s largest solar energy companies, told The Independent: “Developing a viable solution in this area is an important part of the roadmap for yet lower costs and increased applicability. We're delighted to see this kind of research taking place in the UK.

 “However, part of what makes today’s silicon-based solar so successful is its bankability resulting from decades of service experience and a long-lasting warranty.

"So should you consider waiting for spray-on solar before you adopt the technology? We would say no. It’s unknown how long it will take for this kind of innovation to become mainstream and electricity price rises are real right now.”