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Changing the Building Blocks of Solar Panels Could Speed Mass Production

June 27, 2022 by Dan McCue
(Credit: Ravi Silva, director of the ATI at the University of Surrey.)

GUILDFORD, England — Researchers at the University of Surrey have joined the growing chorus of scientists and entrepreneurs who believe perovskite, often referred to as a kind of “miracle” material, just may be the key to speeding the mass production of low-cost solar panels.

At the heart of a paper newly published in Scientific Reports is the idea of using perovskite ink to create low-cost, lightweight solar cells that can either be rigid or flexible, making them easier to transport and install.

First discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia in 1839, perovskite is a calcium titanium oxide mineral that displays a number of useful properties including superconductivity and magnetoresistance.

It has long been considered to have a possible future in the manufacture of solar cells because they are relatively easy to synthesize and have proven to be highly efficient photovoltaics.

Already at least one firm, a Canadian startup called Solaires Entreprises is marketing a perovskite-based product called Solar Ink that can be used to create standalone perovskite solar modules. It also can be combined with existing solar modules in a tandem configuration.

Others see the material as playing a critical role in next-gen electric vehicle batteries, sensors, lasers and much more.

The paper by Dr. Ehsan Rezaee, a post-doctoral fellow of the Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey, considers the use of perovskite as a replacement of the silicon traditionally used as the basis of solar cells.

“The objective is simply to produce solar cell building blocks out of perovskite ink,” Rezaee writes of his research. “Whilst perovskite ink is not a new technology, current inks do not guarantee seamless transitions on an industrial scale, as the manufacturing process needs to be highly controlled and optimized.

“Our perovskite ink produces a fast and reproducible way to reliably fabricate these solar cell building blocks on a mass scale, paving the way for its use in commercial markets,” he continued.

The University of Surrey is a leading research institution that focuses on sustainability for the benefit of society to deal with the many challenges of climate change. 

“The University of Surrey has always believed in the potential of solar panels to be a critical research area which will, in time, allow us to move away from dangerous old energy sources,” said professor Ravi Silva, director of the ATI at the University of Surrey, in a written statement. 

“However, we must do more to improve the connection between research and production on a mass industry scale in order to see this as a future turning point, which is the purpose of our paper,” Silva said.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and @DanMcCue

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