Researchers Make Solar Panels in a Spray-can

One of the biggest problems with current solar power solutions is that they rely on solar panels made from silicon. These are rigid, making them ideal for placing on roofs of houses but nearly impossible to put on something which is innately curved like a car or the back of many smartphones.

New technology from the University of Sheffield could change all of that by making the application of solar cells as simple as spray painting the surface of anything that needs solar power.

The spray-on cells uses a mineral called perovskite which, in addition to being naturally occurring, is both cheaper and simpler to obtain and process than its rival, silicon. It also has the added benefit of needing just a 1 micrometer thick layer of light absorbing material versus the 180 micrometer thick layer required for silicon making allowing it to be sprayed onto a surface.

The biggest question one has to ask when dealing with solar cells is always going to be the efficiency of the panel to deliver energy from the sunlight that it absorbs. Current silicon solar cells sit at around 25% efficiency and while the perovskite spray-on cells are at just 11% efficiency at the moment regular solar cells made with the mineral have a 19% efficiency. Another problem with the efficiency yield of perovskite spray on cells is that they lose efficiency when they are applied to curved surfaces once again lowering energy output.

The use case for spray on solar cells is intriguing with the likes of electric cars, notebooks and smartphones all able to benefit from having some sort of power generation built into them, especially when it is as thin as the perovskite cells can be.

Whether or not the technology will become the standard for solar power generation will almost certainly all come down to whether the efficiency yield can be brought up to the magical 25% mark and beyond.


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