Across Britain, household rooftops could all feature a new breakthrough of solar power technology by next summer, through the use of crystal, which was first discovered more than 200 years ago to help harness more of the sun’s power.
An Oxford-based solar technology firm is looking into the possibilities that by the end of the year, manufacturing for the world’s most efficient solar panels will begin and become the first to sell them to the public within the next year.
Oxford Photovoltaics Limited (Oxford PV) claims that the next-generation solar panels will be able to generate nearly a third more electricity than traditional silicon-based solar panels by coating the panels with a thin layer of a crystal material called perovskite.
The revolution of a new Solar PV system would offer the first major step-change in solar power generation since the technology emerged in the 1950s and could play a major role in helping the UK to tackle the climate crisis by increasing clean energy.
By coating a traditional solar power cell with perovskite, a solar panel can increase its power generation, and lower the overall costs of the clean electricity, because the crystal would have the ability to absorb different parts of the solar spectrum than traditional silicon panels.
Typically, a silicon solar cell is able to convert up to about 22% of the available solar energy into electricity. But in June 2018, Oxford PV’s perovskite-on-silicon solar cell surpassed the best performing silicon-only solar cell by reaching a new world record of 27.3%.
Instead of the blue tint usually associated with traditional silicon panels, the new perovskite-coated panels created by Oxford PV will appear black to help blend in better with rooftop slates, making your home look sleek and futuristic.
Dr Chris Case, the chief technology officer at Oxford PV, said using perovskite represents “a true change” for solar technology, which has remained relatively unchanged since the silicon-based panels developed in the 1950s.
“Silicon has reached its culmination of capability,” he said. “There are residual improvements to be made, and cost of production opportunities, but from a performance standpoint it is at its efficiency limit. The perovskite material is something totally innovative for solar.”
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