Scientists have achieved a major breakthrough using a so-called 'miracle material' to boost the efficiency of solar panels. Two separate studies have shown how the material perovskite can push the power conversion efficiency rate of photovoltaic (PV) solar cells above 30 percent, beyond the theoretical limit of traditional silicon (PV) solar cells. Perovskite has emerged as a material capable of transforming various industries, from renewable energy to ultra high-speed communications. By stacking a layer of perovskite on top of silicon into a tandem device, researchers were able to significantly boost the efficiency of commercial PV technologies while retaining the industry standard configuration.
Tandem solar cells are the most straightforward route towards decreasing the levelized cost of electricity, well beyond what is possible for single-junction solar cells. The latest breakthrough from teams in China and Japan may pave the way for mass production of ultra-efficient solar panels. Perovskite in tandem solar cells can optimize electricity generation from the Sun's energy by capturing more of the spectrum.
The current efficiency record for this next-generation solar cell is 33.7 percent, achieved by engineers at the KAUST Solar Center in Saudi Arabia. Last month, a startup in China announced plans to begin production of tandem solar cells, with perovskite cutting costs to 'just one 20th of traditional solar cells'. The scientists believe their approach could ultimately achieve an efficiency rate 'well above 35 percent', although further work is needed on making the tandem cells more durable in real-world conditions, as well as scaling them up to the size of traditional solar panels.
The research was detailed in two separate papers published in the journal Science.