Solar panel world record smashed with ‘miracle material’

Perovskite cell passes theoretical efficiency limit of standard solar cell

Anthony Cuthbertson
Tuesday 14 November 2023 07:13 GMT
INSIDE THINGS - Solar Panels

Researchers have made a breakthrough with a so-called miracle material to break the efficiency record for solar panel electricity generation.

A team from the Chinese solar technology firm Longi set a new world record of 33.9 per cent for a silicon-perovskite tandem solar cell, breaking the previous record set in May this year by King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia.

The new efficiency record also broke the theoretical limit of 33.7 per cent for the first time of standard single junction cells, which are found in commercial solar panels.

“This provides meaningful empirical data to demonstrate the advantage of crystalline silicon-perovskite tandem solar cells over crystalline silicon single junction solar cells in terms of efficiency,” the company noted in a statement.

“The emergence of crystalline silicon-perovskite tandem technology has opened up a new track for the development of next-generation high-efficiency solar cell technology. This means that the same area, absorbing the same light, can emit more electricity.”

The theoretical efficiency limit of silicon-perovskite tandem solar cells is 43 per cent, however this level is unlikely to ever be realised on a commercial scale.

The first production of ultra-efficient perovskite solar panels could begin in China, with researchers from Nanjing University saying earlier this year that a design breakthrough has made mass production possible.

According to the researchers, the next-generation panels will be 50 per cent cheaper and 50 per cent more efficient than traditional silicon cells, however the efficiency rates will still be a long way off the levels achieved in the lab.

UK startup Oxford PV, which is a spin-out from the University of Oxford, is already in the process of commercialising the technology, with hopes of beginning full-scale production at a German facility later this year.

A perovskite-silicon tandem cell developed by Oxford PV (Oxford PV)

“Current silicon solar panels have reached their physical limits. We’ve got a way to transform the efficiency of these solar cells with perovskite,” Chris Case, Oxford PV’s chief technology officer, told The Independent in August.

“The biggest challenge by far is durability and reliability. We already have great efficiency – much greater than current silicon cells – so most of our research and development is spent enhancing reliability, not efficiency.”

Perovskite has been hailed as a “miracle material” for its potential to revolutionise everything from high-speed telecommunications to renewable energy technologies.

Perovskite is the most abundant mineral on the planet, making up 38 per cent of the mass of the Earth (Creative commons)

Its potential for solar panels is not limited to the efficiency gains compared to traditional silicon cells, but also new ways of using them.

Recent breakthroughs include self-healing solar panels that can maintain their efficiency for tens to hundreds of years, as well as double-sided solar panels capable of generating electricity from the Sun’s energy on both sides.

The material could also be used in applications ranging from building-integrated solar panels to space-based electricity generation.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in