PV research

A hot new material for solar cells

Jürgen Heup, 17 Mar 14
The organic compound perovskite is a beacon of hope for photovoltaics. It is rapidly becoming more efficient and promises low production costs.

Researchers at the Korean Research Institute of Chemical Technology (KRICT) have apparently succeeded in making an organic solar cell that achieves 16.2-percent efficiency. The interesting thing about it is that the absorber is made of perovskite, a material that made its debut in solar cell technology just five years ago. The record-breaking work by the Korean researchers quadrupled the efficiency that perovskite had previously been capable of. The journal “Science” described the cell as one of the most important technological advances of 2013.

But given that nine out of ten solar panels sold are made of silicon, is this really anything to shout about? Wafer-based cell technology reached efficiencies of 25 percent long ago, and even the mass-produced panels can harvest the sun at over 20 percent. Plus, ever since the price of the raw material began tumbling in 2009 – polycrystalline silicon is now on offer for around EUR 15 per kilogram – wafer cells are way ahead on production costs, and the competition has to do battle with panels that come in at EUR 0.50 per watt. But despite all that, the race to the top of the market has yet to be decided.

This is an abridged version of the article – the full text is available in new energy issue 02/2014

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