These flexible solar cells bring us closer to kicking the fossil-fuel habit

The dream: the Green Economy that could be fueled by  tandem perovskite-on-silicon devices, a potentially transformational technology, that  could achieve around 43% efficiency.

No solar material has managed to supplant silicon. Perovskites, which are far cheaper and can be made into flexible modules, could change that.

Photo illustration of a perovskite

    • Perovskite solar cells can be cheaper, lighter, more energy-efficient, and easier to produce than traditional silicon
    • They could be put on windows, irregularly shaped surfaces, or even moving vehicles and open up a whole new range of uses for solar power, like desalination
    • The biggest challenge: making them durable enough

While silicon panels might dominate the market—with around 95% market share—silicon is not an especially good solar material. It mainly uses light from the red and infrared end of the solar spectrum, and it has to be fairly thick and bulky to absorb and convert photons. The most efficient silicon solar panels on the market achieve less than 23% efficiency, while the theoretical maximum for a single layer of silicon is around 29%.

Perovskite, on the other hand, can use more of the light that reaches it and can be tuned to work with different parts of the spectrum. Oxford PV has opted for the blue end. Paired in a cell, the two materials can convert more photons into electrons together than either can deliver on its own.

Oxford PV plans to deliver solar cells based on perovskite and silicon to the market by the end of next year, using a German factory it acquired in 2016 from Bosch Solar. The two materials will come in a package that otherwise looks, ships, and installs the same way as a standard solar panel, in a kind of half step that the company believes will make it easier to introduce the technology to the market.

Oxford PV's manufacturing plant in Germany.
Oxford PV’s manufacturing plant in Germany. OXFORD PV

Perovskites… can be produced at low temperatures and used in liquid form to coat flexible materials like plastic, enabling a roll-to-roll manufacturing process similar to newspaper printing. MORE

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