Solar Cell Energy Efficiency Improves
- Aug 29, 2022 10:18 am GMT
Energy efficiency initiatives typically center on finding ways to lower energy needs in homes and businesses. But improved energy efficiency may also have a positive impact on the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy.
The path from fossil fuels to renewables has been slow to take shape because the latter are expensive and hard to deploy. One reason is the silicon used to make solar panels is quite expensive. On top of that, it can only be manufactured in stiff sheets, meaning that only a certain kind of building can attempt to use solar energy. A possible solution to the problems is emerging.
An Alternative to Silicon Emerges
Perovskite solar cells are cheaper than silicon. They can actually be printed from inks, which also gives them an edge in terms of weight and flexibility. Unfortunately, they cannot stand a normal outdoor environment. A little bit of excessive weather disables perovskite solar cells.
Scientists at Imperial College London solved this problem by injecting ferrocenes into perovskite solar cells. Ferrocenes are compounds with iron at their center, surrounded by sandwiching rings of carbon. One property this structure gives solar cells is excellent electron richness, which in this case allows electrons to move more easily from the perovskite layer to subsequent layers, improving the resiliency and efficiency of converting solar energy to electricity. In fact, the team reached a record-high efficiency of 25% and passed the stability test set by the International Electrotechnical Commission.
Improving the Business Case
The development could help solar suppliers on two fronts. These solutions have been much more expensive than fossil fuel alternatives. The perovskite solar cells should cost less than alternatives.
Also, utilities have had problems storing renewable energy, collecting it during the day when the sun shines brightest and then being able to use it at night when it shines least. Developing more efficient solar arrays increases their energy efficiency.
The energy industry’s ultimate goal is to lessen dependency on other fuels and make solar a more attractive alternative. Developing stronger, less costly solar cells is a step in that direction.
However, the work is in an early stage of development. Right now, no commercial products are based on it. The road from scientific discovery to commercial product requires time, money, and effort – and not all ventures are successful. Government support may help the process but thus far none has been forthcoming.
Solar energy has been hindered by high costs. Embracing Perovskite solar cells enhanced with ferrocenes may help lower them, but a lot of work remains for that possibility to become a reality.
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